GENEVA, Ill. -- Jeff Gray, a 2006 Kane County Cougar, has become a part of franchise history as the 100th former Cougar to officially play in the Major Leagues. The young right-handed relief pitcher took the mound for the A's in Detroit during the eighth inning of last night's game against the Tigers.
Gray pitched the eighth frame in front of an announced crowd of 37,981 fans at Comerica Park, allowing one run and striking out two batters. During that inning, Gray faced another former Cougar and current Major Leaguer who played at Kane County when Gray was just 11 years old. That player, Edgar Renteria, was the 15th former Cougar to make the Majors -- debuting in 1996 with the Florida Marlins. Last night, the 100th former Cougar retired the 15th former Cougar as the Detroit shortstop lined out to second baseman Eric Patterson.
A 34th-round draft pick by the A's in 2004, Gray cracked the Cougars' Opening Day roster in 2006. In 22 games that season with Kane County, Gray split his appearances as a reliever and starter while posting a 5-5 record. After receiving a promotion to Class A Advanced Stockton on July 12, Gray quickly progressed through the Oakland system upon leaving Geneva. Gray spent a majority of the 2007 season with Triple-A Sacramento while helping the club win the Pacific Coast League championship. This season, Gray made 54 appearances for the River Cats before finally receiving the news late last week that every Minor Leaguer dreams of hearing.
This past March, the Cougars began a "100th Cougar Contest" in conjunction with the organization potentially reaching the milestone this season. Fans were encouraged to submit a guess from a preselected ballot of nine former Cougars who were on the verge of becoming Major Leaguers this season. One of the choices was indeed Jeff Gray, and Cougars fan Kerry Palmiter of suburban Romeoville was the randomly selected entry winner. Palmiter submitted the correct guess earlier this summer and will receive an authentic Cougars home jersey with special #100 embroidery.
As the only professional baseball team affiliated with Major League Baseball in the Chicago area, the Cougars franchise welcomes Gray into a prestigious list of Kane County alumni that include current big-league stars such as Ryan Dempster, Adrian Gonzalez and Miguel Cabrera. So far in 2008, four former Cougars (IF Gregorio Petit/A's, C John Baker/Marlins, IF Cliff Pennington/A's and P Jeff Gray/A's) have reached the Major Leagues.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.