MILWAUKEE -- The first leg of Corey Ray's cross-country tour kicked off Saturday at Miller Park as the Brewers rolled out a red-carpet treatment for the first-round Draft pick out of the University of Louisville.
Ray, taken by Milwaukee at No. 5, signed with the club and took batting practice, met the team and held a news conference before the Brewers took on the Nationals. The 21-year-old outfielder will attend the ceremony announcing the Golden Spikes Award winner -- he's one of four finalists -- on Thursday in Los Angeles, before beginning his professional career with high Class A affiliate Brevard County.
Ray received a $4,125,000 signing bonus, just under the $4,382,000 slot value assigned to the No. 5 pick, according to MLB.com's Jim Callis. The Brewers did not disclose the terms of the deal. He was Milwaukee's highest Draft pick since the team took Ryan Braun fifth overall in 2005.
A power and speed threat, Ray took his batting-practice swings right after Chris Carter, and he did his best to match the heavy-hitting Brewers first baseman by launching a ball into the third deck in right field.
"Early on, I'm nervous just because I'd seen Chris Carter hitting balls out of the stadium and I'm like, 'I've got to follow that? C'mon, you should've put me in group one,'" Ray said. "It felt good to swing the bat again."
Born and raised on Chicago's south side, Ray rose to the top of Draft boards this season by hitting .319 during Louisville's regular season, with 15 home runs and 44 stolen bases in 62 games in the tough Atlantic Coast Conference. He mostly played right field, but reiterated Saturday he believes he can be a center fielder.
"I believe I'm a center fielder. I think the people here will believe I'm a center fielder, and if they don't, one day they will," Ray said.
The first opportunity for Ray to prove himself will be at Brevard County -- a notable jump for a player just selected in the Draft. He will join the Manatees as they kick off the second half of their season in the Florida State League following the Golden Spikes ceremony. Ray, Florida pitcher Logan Shore, Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis and Clemson outfielder Seth Beer are the other finalists.
"It means a lot," Ray said. "You work hard, as hard as you can to be there, and when they call you and tell you you're one of four finalists in the country for this prestigious award, you're honored."
Ray was joined at Miller Park by his family and area scout Jeff Simpson, who got to know Corey over his career at Louisville.
"There are years invested in this process, and that allows you to get comfortable with a player and his family on the field, off the field," Brewers vice president of amateur scouting Ray Montgomery said. "And when you're talking about the fifth pick in the country, those things have to check off."
With Ray under contract, the Brewers have signed all 11 of their selections in the first 10 rounds. Their highest unsigned pick is 11th-rounder Chad McClanahan, a prep third baseman from central Phoenix who has a scholarship offer from Arizona State.
The Brewers still have funds in their $9,364,300 bonus pool to sign McClanahan or another prep pick. The deadline to sign selections is July 15.
Curt Hogg is a reporter for MLB.com based
in Milwaukee.. Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.