Q&A: From Mitchell Park to the Majors
Sooner baseball alums Jon Gray and Dillon Overton return to campus on Feb. 3 for Oklahoma baseball’s annual “Diamond Dinner”. The duo that helped pitch OU to the 2013 Big 12 Championship will be honored by first-year head coach Skip Johnson and the Sooners at the dinner, which will be hosted at the Marriott Conference Center at NCED in Norman. The event begins at 7 p.m. Tickets, which cost $50 per person, must be purchased in advance by contacting Ryan Gaines or Dillon Stanley in the OU baseball office at 405-325-8354.
Ahead of their visit to OU next month, Gray and Overton took the time for a Q&A with SoonerSports.com.
Q&A With Gray and Overton
On being honored by their former team…
Gray: “It is very cool and to know that all the good things are still happening and the program is growing. It is really cool to be a part of. I know it doesn’t seem like it has been close to five years, but it has and it went by in a blink. I am so excited to be able to go back and take everything in and see what else has been going on.”
Overton: “A couple weeks ago when I went to the TCU game for the Big 12 championship, I told [Skip] that I was super excited to finally come back. Since my wife graduated, we haven’t been back to the campus so we are pretty excited to just get back and see some familiar faces and obviously getting honored like that was not something that I was expecting, but it is awesome and I am humbled to be getting recognized like that, along with Jon. He is one of my best friends so for me and him both to get honored like that is awesome.”
On his memories from his playing days at OU…
Gray: “Just putting on the uniform, for me, was the best thing ever. I grew up as a diehard Oklahoma fan and so it was everything for me to be able to play there, and wear crimson and cream it was a dream come true. I wouldn’t trade those days for anything, I had a great time while I was there.”
On what made the 2013 team special…
Gray: “I think it was our drive that we had away from the field. We were all about baseball when we were at the field, but to me even when we were away from the field we were talking about it, finding ways to get better in the offseason and I just remember how hard we pushed our team that year and we had very good team chemistry. It was a lot of fun and it went by fast, but it was probably the most fun that I have had in the game of baseball.”
Overton: “I think the chemistry that we had. The year before, my sophomore year, we had pretty good chemistry, but there were just some things that weren’t clicking right whether it was on the offense or defense or pitching. Even my freshman year we were really good, but that was the year after they went to Omaha, ended up being number two in the country for a while, but the chemistry on that team just wasn’t like it was the next two years. My junior year everybody loved everybody, we all hung out all the time together. When you have good chemistry on the field and off the field, it makes a huge difference rather than seeing each other at the field and never seeing each other outside the field. We had so much fun my junior year and we knew that we were pretty good and we knew that we would go a little ways, but we did not try to think about that too much. It was so much fun. I remember having the dogpile in Bricktown. It was awesome. Me and Jon got smooshed a little bit and then we kind of squiggled out a little bit and we ended up being on the top of the dogpile. I mean Jon could take it, but not me because he is a lot bigger guy than me.”
On the difference that team chemistry makes…
Gray: “Yes. Dillon and I and three or four of our closest friends are guys that we played with when we were at Oklahoma. We are still best friends today and I think that is really cool.”
Overton: “Well, actually as funny as it is a lot of my best memories weren’t even at the baseball field. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of awesome times on the field with a lot of great guys, but being in the apartment with Johnathan Gray and Steven Okert and Matt Oberste, Jake Fisher there is never a dull moment at all. It doesn’t matter what was happening; you walk in the door and something was going on. I think it was my sophomore year when Steven Okert was still there and me, him, Jon and Oberste hung out almost every hour of every day and I don’t think I have laughed as much as I have in my life other than that year. We have a group text so that anytime something happens or we have to say something to somebody else we just text in that group text and everyone responds.”
On the OU connection when playing against another former Sooner in the pros…
Gray: “There is a really cool background. I ran across Chase Anderson with the Brewers and I talked to him, he’s a great family guy and it already seems like there is a level where you can open up and talk to that person, share things that both you went through together and just a lot of similarities; great place, great time.”
Overton: “It is a very refreshing feeling, I guess you could say. Walking up to someone that you have known for a while because most of the guys that you play with once you get into pro ball are people you have either never met or you have heard about them, but you have never talked to them so you don’t really know them. The last couple years I have played against Jack Mayfield who I played with, he was my shortstop or second baseman, and every time we play against each other it’s like we never left each other. He was my roommate actually my junior year, so when something like that happens it kind of fills a spot in your heart that was a little bit vacated when you left school.”
On making their MLB debut…
Gray: “I just remember being like ‘wow’ this is a big deal because there is so much media and there were so many things other than just baseball that I had to focus on too, that it was tough for me to learn how to balance at the beginning. That was kind of overwhelming at first, but it took a few games and maybe even my first year I think, but things started to settle down and change.”
Overton: “Oh boy, there were so many emotions that went into that day; it was unbelievable. It is hard to explain. The first time I thought I was going up, it was all over social media and I was going to be next one to be called up and I had gotten my hopes up and then it didn’t happen so I was pretty discouraged after that. Then three or four weeks later, people were telling me that it was all over social media again and I ended up actually just getting off all social media for a while so that I didn’t have to look at it because I didn’t want to get my hopes up again. I was actually charting a game the night they told me and someone told me that I was going to get called up it was all over social media. I was like, ‘whatever dude I am not paying attention to that’. Then I come back into the locker room after the game and they actually ended up calling me up that night. When they told me, I was kind of in shock. I went outside to call my wife and my parents; actually I started tearing up a little bit because I was in shock and I didn’t know what was going on. That first day, you know your debut and you realize that you have to face people like Kole Calhuon, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols. It is a big deal. I have been watching Albert Pujols since I was a kid. He was one of my favorite players growing up with the Cardinals. So to get to face him my very first game in a big league uniform was absolutely incredible. I remember when I got taken off the mound after my outing, I probably had 50-60 people there for my debut and when I walked off the mound I looked up to my fan section and all my family, my wife standing up yelling for me and I kind of looked around for a second and my eyes started watering because it’s a big deal. It is kind of surreal when you are in the moment. I was just trying to soak it in and there were so many emotions going through my head and at the same time it was crazy.”
On Skip Johnson and where the program is headed under his direction…
Gray: “I actually did talk to Skip a few weeks ago on the phone and I remember him coaching Texas when I was playing and he had some good guys on his team also; a couple of guys who are in the big leagues right now that I have played against. You know, I have never heard anything but good things about Skip and how great he is at coaching players. Steve Foster, my pitching coach at Colorado, and Skip are very good friends, very close friends, so it’s almost like they have some similarities too so I can definitely relate there, but it was easy to get along with Skip; very down to earth. He seems like a good country boy and that is where I am from and what I am used to so it is really good to get to know him.
Overton: “He called me about a month ago to tell me that they were honoring me and Jon at the Diamond Dinner. That was actually the first time that I had talked to him and heard his voice. I knew who he was when we were playing against him. I was super shocked when OU had hired the coach that was at Texas. I was like ‘what? Really?’. I didn’t see that happening. In my opinion, I think it was an extremely smart move. I mean, OU has been a really good baseball program for the last 10 years or so and for them to get a guy like him who was at a program like Texas is huge. He knows what he is doing, obviously. They did great at Texas and I think he will take OU in the right direction.”