Jon Gray was putting in a regular workout between starts last summer, when he and a member of the Coors Field grounds crew began to chat. The subject turned to the 25-year-old right-hander's lengthy hair, and what Gray did with his hair when he cut it. Gray was a bit curious about the inquiry.
By the time the conversation was over, Gray had been introduced to Locks of Love, a program designed for people to donate their hair to be used for hairpieces for children who have suffered significant hair loss because of cancer, severe burns or other medical issues.
Gray plans to make his next donation next month.
"I had the ability to do this so why not?" he said
Gray, after all, is a rising star on the baseball field, and his effort will bring attention to the efforts of Locks of Love.
A likely choice for Colorado's Opening Day starting assignment, Gray was the Rockies' 2013 first-round Draft pick, a third selection overall behind Mark Appel, who went to the Astros, and Kris Bryant, who went to the Cubs.
Gray made his big league debut in August 2015 and struggled in nine starts, but he was back with Colorado from Opening Day 2016 on and established himself as a factor in the Major Leagues. In 2016, he went 10-10 with a 4.61 ERA in 29 starts, including 7-2 at Coors Field, where the Rockies won nine of his 14 starts.
Gray put an exclamation point on his season in a Sept. 17 home start against San Diego when he struck out 16 and did not walk a batter during his first career complete game. It was also a shutout, and Colorado won 8-0.
Now, Gray wants to help youth win a personal battle much more challenging than anything that happens on a playing field. And he's nearing the time for his first donation.
Gray's hair has reached the required 10-inch length, but he said he will wait for about another month to let it grow out a bit more so he will have some hair left on his head post-cut. He has always had longer hair, but he said when he learned about Locks of Love, he decided to grow it even longer.
"There are requirements," Gray said. "It has to be 10 inches from the ponytail, and you have to make sure it is in a ponytail before you send it off. You put a rubber band around it, then put it into a [sealed plastic] bag and an envelope, and mail it."
The biggest challenge so far? Having patience as his hair grows.
"I started [growing] this in the spring of 2015," said Gray. "I've always had longer hair, but not this long. It's worth it, though, if it can help those kids."
Sounds simple. And it is.
But it has a profound impact on the children suffering from long-term medical hair loss. The peer pressure associated with losing hair can be just as difficult to endure as the medical issue itself. Locks of Love helps to alleviate that.
"Locks of Love is devoted to helping every child suffering from medical hair loss, thus we do not discriminate as to the cause of hair loss," reads a statement on the organization's website.
The charity is focused on children from financially disadvantaged families.
The website also explains, "Locks of Love is not a manufacturer of any type of hair replacement system or hair care product. As a charity and strictly a charity, we must purchase the custom prostheses we provide for our recipients."
It's a new endeavor for Gray. So far, he admits, his charity work consists of, "My wife and I [helping with] rescue animals. That's about it."
Now there is Locks for Love, something that Gray couldn't resist. He is, after all, going to get a haircut, and if the trimmings can help a young person better cope with a medical condition, why not?
"We are going to try and do some things to raise awareness with this, and maybe get some people to step up," Gray said. "I want to do it again."
And Gray has the type of profile that could influence others to make a similar commitment to the charity.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.