Jon Gray returned to his old stomping grounds Tuesday, back in Denver for the first time since joining Texas as part of its offseason spending spree, leaving the Rockies to sign a four-year, $56-million contract. The Rangers ace spent his first seven seasons in Colorado, finishing as the franchise’s all-time leader in strikeouts per nine innings (9.21). He also ranks among their top ten in career strikeouts (third), wins (seventh) and innings pitched (seventh).
Before Tuesday night’s series opener at Coors Field, Gray thought he’d take a stroll through his old neighborhood, hoping for a chance encounter with a group of squirrels that would frequent his yard. Gray used to feed his furry friends almonds and even let them rest on his shoulder, but alas, they were nowhere to be found.
Oh, the cruel passage of time. Gray getting snubbed by a family of squirrels (though you could argue he was actually the one who abandoned them) is both a heartbreaking betrayal and a metaphor for change. It’s also a supreme bummer, a devastating reminder of life’s inherent loneliness and the stark realization that, no matter how hard we resist, nothing in life or nature lasts forever. Squirrels typically survive 5-10 years in the wild, so there’s a better-than-not chance Gray’s squirrel pals are still out there, roaming the streets of Denver in search of purpose or, more likely, a new almond supplier.
Gray isn’t scheduled to pitch this series—he’s still recovering from an oblique injury suffered earlier this month—though he did receive a tribute video while catching up with many of his former teammates and, of course, the Rockies’ longtime mascot, Dinger. The right-hander has been effective when healthy this season—which, admittedly, hasn’t been very often—contributing a 3.83 ERA with 116 strikeouts in 103 1/3 innings (10.1 K/9).
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