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Former Poplarville baseball player chasing his dreams

Canaan Ray has been playing baseball for as long as he can remember.

Starting with tee ball at about the age of 4, Ray constantly kept coming back to the game he thought best suited his talents.

Slowly but surely Ray paid his dues and rose through the ranks once he began his high school career.

Originally an infielder and pitcher for the Poplarville Hornets, Ray developed into a potent offensive weapon.

In that time he put up hard to believe batting averages of .520 his junior year and .400 his senior year as he battled with his teammates to improve as a player.

It wasn’t just on the diamond Ray excelled.

The three-sport athlete was also part of the football and basketball programs during his high school career.

But it was his inherent desire to play baseball that led him to focus his efforts on the game he’d been a part of since his early childhood.

“I played a lot growing up it’s something I’ve always done, something I love. I thought I’d do best at baseball and so I picked it junior year (as my main sport),” Ray said.

Despite his proficiency inside the batter’s box Ray didn’t have any offers following his breakout junior year.

College ball was at the forefront of his mind, but no concrete opportunities had materialized.

Summer ball is a way for athletes to hone their skills while not playing with their high school team, and in that time players can be scouted by college coaches.

Ray decided the heated competition might provide him with ways to get better on the field and bring exposure to his talents.

After several tournaments, junior college programs started taking interest, including the one he’d eventually sign with.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College saw what Ray could do and offered him a chance to pursue his dreams of playing college ball.

Ray had played 14 games for the Bulldogs this past season with a .354 batting average before the season ended due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

It was a shock to the players, but Ray has faith it will pass.

“It’s heartbreaking. You don’t get to play the game you love with your brothers, but God has a plan and this is all for a reason. It’s heartbreaking, but it is what is,” Ray said.

The season may have ended, but the work to constantly improve on the field hasn’t.

Ray garnered interest from JUCO clubs because of his performances, and those performances are the product of hard work and dedication.

There may be other athletes at Poplarville High School who dream of playing at the next level so Ray has a couple of tips to help them achieve those goals.

“For younger players, you have to put in lots of work. It takes a lot of time and a lot of reps to get yourself out there. For seniors, you have to do something this summer to get better because you’re either getting better or getting worse,” Ray said.