Jon Gray has had a rough summer.
Physically, he’s on the injured list for the third time this season for his third different injury: a high number for anyone, let alone one of the game’s more durable arms prior to signing with Texas this offseason.
Emotionally, the guy must be ravaged. Which, to be clear, I had never had reason to suspect strongly until last night. Sure, there are the inevitable frustrations that come with being injured in his first season on a big contract with a new team, especially since Gray was quietly pitching like an ace-caliber arm in June and July—the sweet spot between getting his sea legs under him after knee strain in late April and going down with a strained oblique in early August. But professional athletes tend to be resilient in matters of the mind. In matters of the heart, however, they’re human beings just like the rest of us. Human beings who ache as we all do in the face of abandonment.
Allow me to explain. Last night, the Rangers played the first of a two-game set in Colorado. Gray was in town to be honored by the Rockies, the organization that selected him third overall in the 2013 MLB Draft and employed him until he left for Texas in free agency last winter. (They played a video tribute and everything.) He told the Denver media he missed the usual things—the city, the teammates, his old neighborhood.
But also, the squirrels. Turns out a family of them frequented his house, and rather than shoo them away, Gray befriended them. He’d feed them almonds; they’d scurry onto his shoulder to sit down for a while. The bond was strong enough that in his first morning back in town, Gray made a point to see if he could locate them at his old house. He hoped they’d remember him.
Alas, Gray … you know what? This hurts too much to type. Here’s Nick Groke, Rockies beat writer for The Athletic.
Nick contends that’s fine. If you love something, set it free and all that. Unfortunately, my former colleague is profoundly wrong. This sucks!
But there’s still time. And hope. The series finale is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. local time, which means the team plane won’t depart Denver until tonight at the soonest. So if you’re in town, consider this a call to arms: do Jon Gray a solid and find his squirrels. Send them to Coors Field for a tearful reunion—but text first, so he has the almonds ready. Bonus points if you can furnish the squirrels with tiny boomboxes a la John Cusack in Say Anything. And put the whole thing on TikTok. You get engagement and a boost in your career as a budding animal video influencer. Gray gets rescued from the depths of what must be emotional ruin. I can think of much worse ways to spend a Wednesday.