In Major League Baseball, the Cherokee Nation is pretty well represented these days.
“Well represented” is certainly a phrase with an array of applications, but this season there are four CN citizens in the big leagues: Adrian Houser of the Milwaukee Brewers, Ryan Helsley of the St. Louis Cardinals, Dylan Bundy of the Los Angeles Angels and Jon Gray of the Colorado Rockies.
That’s the most Cherokees in the MLB since the 1930s, when Bob Johnson, Roy Johnson, Elon “Chief” Hogsett, Rudy York and Vallie Eaves were simultaneously engaged in professional careers.
Houser, a pitcher, was selected straight out of Locust Grove High School in the second round of the 2011 draft. Chosen by the Houston Astros, he came up with the Brewers in 2015. He was recalled to the Brewers in 2018, and has since stayed on the roster.
Through July 26, Houser had started 17 games in 2021 with an ERA of 3.88 with 74 strikeouts in 92-2/3 innings pitched while posting a 6-5 record. On April 27, he hit his first MLB home run.
“It’s pretty incredible to live out my dream I’ve had since I was five years old,” Houser said. “I’m absolutely still awestruck to get to see MVP players all the time. It’s like being a fan again when you’re in the dugout.”
Houser recalled attending CN Head Start and learning a bit of the Cherokee language, adding “I need to freshen up on that.”
“When I was younger we went to the Cherokee National Holidays and celebrated,” he said. “It’s awesome to represent the Cherokee Nation. Ryan Helsley is a friend, and it’s good to keep shining for the Cherokee Nation.”
The Cardinals took Helsley in the fifth round out of Northeastern State University in 2015. He broke into the majors with St. Louis in 2019. So far in 2021, he has posted a 5-4 record through 45 relief appearances. He has recorded 37 strikeouts through 41-1/3 innings and has an ERA of 4.79.
“It’s honestly been a dream come true,” Helsley said. “I’ve loved every aspect of it. It’s what you always dream about as a little kid. Just like anything in life, you have to make some adjustments along the way. I’ve had and currently have some great teammates to learn from to help further my career. God willing, I hope I can play this game a long time and end it on my own terms.”
Bundy is a pitcher for the Angels, and was taken fourth overall in the 2011 draft by the Baltimore Orioles. He has dealt with a number of injuries during his career, and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013.
The Angels got Bundy in a trade at the end of 2019. In 2020, he went 6-3 with a 3.29 ERA and amassed 72 strikeouts in 65-2/3 innings. But 2021 has proven a tough campaign for the pitcher from Owasso High School. Through July 26 he was 1-7 with a 6.69 ERA through 70 innings pitched, though he also struck out 68 batters in that span. The Angels reassigned him to the bullpen in July.
Gray is also a pitcher; today’s Cherokee big leaguers seem to find their way to the mound. A product of Chandler High School, Gray was drafted in 2013 by the Rockies with the third overall pick after playing his college ball at the University of Oklahoma. He reached the majors in 2015 and has been in the Rockies’ starting rotation since 2016, with short exceptions. Through mid-2021, he was 6-6 with a 3.67 ERA with 91 strikeouts through 98 innings pitched.