TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma – Jayley Ray (Mvskoke) is a senior and softball player at Tahlequah High School. Ray is the daughter of Chris and Beverly Ray (both Mvskoke) and granddaughter of Patsy (Mvskoke) and Willie Pigeon and Sherry Ray (Mvskoke). On Nov. 2, 2022, Ray signed a commitment letter to play softball at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO).
Ray’s parents are proud of their daughter and eager for her to embark on the next part of her journey.
“I am happy and excited for her; it’s that kind of feeling that a mom gets when their child takes their first step or says momma for the first time – an unexplainable feeling,” Ray’s mom said. “I have enjoyed watching her develop as a player over the past 14 years.”
Ray has been playing softball since she was four years old. She primarily plays as a third baseman but has also played as a pitcher and in the outfield. She played travel ball with the Oklahoma Shock from 2016 until 2022 and is playing for the Oklahoma Patriots in 2023.
Her parents’ sacrifice and support are not overlooked, and she credits them for where she is today. Besides her mom and dad, Ray also gives credit to her grandpa, another big supporter. He played softball when he was younger and taught her a few things too.
Ray’s dad, Chris Ray, has been her coach for 14 years, starting at Weleetka and playing Coach Pitch. He is also the Head Softball Coach for Tahlequah High School. Coach Ray has watched his daughter mature from a unique position.
“I have been fortunate enough to watch Jayley grow as an individual, student, and athlete,” said Coach Ray. “Jayley decided several years ago that she wanted to play softball in college, and I am grateful to have been able to share that journey with her to this point in her career.”
Being the coach’s kid sounds like it would make things easier, but that is quite the opposite for Ray.
“He’s definitely a lot tougher on me, but it’s made me a better ball player,” Ray said. “Sometimes people question ‘Why does she get to play?’ ‘She’s the favorite,’ but I don’t get any favoritism at all.”
Some could say that being the coach’s kid can make it more challenging. Regardless, her hard work over the years has been noticed.
During her high school career alone, she has accomplished being the 2022 Large School (Class 5A & 6A) All-State selection, 2022 National Fast Pitch Coaches Association Region II 1st Team 3rd Baseman, Vype Magazine Top 100 Softball Players 2022, Class 5A Fast Pitch State Tournament Qualifier 2019, 2020, 2021, & 2022, Class 5A District 4 Defensive Player of the Year 2022, Class 5A District 4 Third Baseman of the Year 2020, 2021, Class 5A District 4 Champions 2021, 2022, and Class 6A Academic Slow Pitch State Champions 2022.
Ray has also played slow-pitch and basketball at Tahlequah. She is a competitive player but still knows how to enjoy the game.
“My favorite memory of all the years I’ve played was my sophomore year,” Ray said. “We beat Pryor in extra innings to advance to the state tournament, and that was probably one of the most fun games I have ever played because it just went back and forth, and we eventually came out on top.”
Not only is Ray a competitive athlete, but she has paid attention to her academics. Ray is a member of the National Honor Society and Oklahoma Indian Student Honor Society and has a 4.032 GPA.
“At times it’s difficult, but you know a student comes before an athlete, so you want to make sure that you do all of your work, get all your stuff turned in; that way, you can practice and play,” Ray said. “If you fall behind in your work, then you may not get to play an important game.”
“So, school is more important, I would say, than sports; that’s why it’s called a student-athlete,” she continued.
Ray will continue her education at NEO to become an athletic trainer. After she completes her freshman and sophomore years, Ray hopes to transfer to another college where she can continue playing the sport she loves.
Throughout her time playing softball, Ray has learned a few life lessons. Her response was simple when asked what she would share with younger athletes.
“Have fun and enjoy it because it goes by quickly,” Ray said. “I would also tell them not to be so hard on themselves because I found the more times I was hard on myself I played a lot worse.”
She continued, “So, if you just have fun, stay loose, and have confidence in yourself, then it makes playing a lot easier.”
Besides playing softball, Ray likes swimming, vacationing, making cards with her mom, and watching college softball. Ray is of the Hvlpvtvlke (Alligator Clan) and a member of Belvin Baptist Church.
Ray said, “Me being a Native American, I get to go out and represent my tribe and my family whenever I’m playing, and that’s a great honor to be able to do.”
Ray will continue to do so during college.
“She has worked extremely hard for the opportunity to play softball at the collegiate level and is eager to get to NEO in August and get her college career started,” Coach Ray said.
Bailey Burnett, NEO’s Head Softball Coach, and Ray have developed a good relationship. Burnett will hold an event for the incoming players to get to know one another and start building bonds.
Ray will play on the Large East All-State Team in the 2022 Oklahoma Fast-Pitch Coaches Association All-State game at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond June 10.