UL grad Ray relishes Beast championship

ELM GROVE — The Columbus-based Triple Crown Royals won the 19U Gold Bracket championship at the recent 30th annual Beast of the East Tournament, going 8-1 over the grueling four-day event.

During their 5-inning, 11-1, rout of the Hilliard Jaguars in the title tilt, members of the Royals — including 2018 Union Local graduate Cody Ray — were planning their celebration after claiming three victories on Championship Sunday, totally unaware of the tradition that goes along with winning on Capt. David VanCamp Memorial Ballfield.

For at least the last dozen years, the swimming pool in the rear of Mark and Dana Black’s residence at 5 Vernon St., which borders the Patterson Recreational Complex where the ballfield is situated, has welcomed the 19U titlists for a dip. They’ve had teams from all over the United States in their 24-foot round, 4.5-foot deep watering hole, but not until three summers ago had a local team celebrated a championship there until St. Clairsville Post 159.

Ray and his teammates, which are all from the Columbus area and included a few players from Division I state champion Olentangy Liberty, were oblivious to the age-old ritual.

“We had no idea. In fact, we were thinking about jumping in the (Big Wheeling) creek behind the field,” Ray admitted Wednesday night during a telephone interview from his Belmont County home. “That (celebrating in the pool) was the best part. The water was just the right temperature.”

“It was super exciting,” Ray said of winning The Beast. “I was stoked for it. The guys responded and we were pretty motivated.”

No one on the talent-laden squad was more ready for the semifinal contest against St. Clairsville Post 159, which featured many players Ray played with and against in high school. After falling behind 8-3, TRC rallied for a 13-8 victory with Ray recording a pair of singles and two runs batted in.

“I was really excited for that game,” he recalled. “I live in the St. C. area, so I really wanted to win that game. I’ve been waiting for that (game) for a long time.”

While he saw action behind the plate for the Royals, the versatile Ray played a variety of positions during the tournament.

“I played some second base, right field and left field,” he noted. “I also pitched against Barnesville in pool play.”

Early in his high school career, Ray tried out for the Ohio Elite and made the team during his sophomore season at UL. However, that program shifted the triple Crown Royals.

“The players on the team have been super good to me. There’s really not a lot of guys from the same high school, so we all had to adjust to each other. I think we’ve done it pretty well so far,” he admitted.

The Royals are currently 15-7-2 heading into an 8 a.m. game today in Columbus.

“We don’t have a home field, so we travel around the state a lot playing in different cities,” he added. “This season we’ve played in Cleveland and Cincinnati. We finish the season in Indianapolis.

Ray, a center/middle linebacker for the OVAC champion Jets, has been selected to participate in the OVAC Rudy Mumley All-Star Charity Football Classic later this month.