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Homegrown Talent: Gainesville grads Owings and Humphrey return as pros

POSTED: June 3, 2008 5:00 a.m.
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Gainesville High graduates Micah Owings, a starting pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks and will take the mound on Sunday against the Atlanta Braves.

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Charles Dickens once wrote that home was a word “stronger than magician ever spoke or spirit ever answered to.”

For many who grew up in Hall County, coming home for the first time after an extended spell away conjures a feeling of comfort, but elicits no fanfare.

But unlike their classmates, when Gainesville High graduates Micah Owings and Tasha Humphrey come home this weekend, thousands of people will be watching and cheering.

“I don’t know for sure,” Former Gainesville High baseball coach and current athletics director Wayne Vickery said, “but I don’t think we’ve ever had two professional athletes from Hall County play on the same weekend in the state. It speaks so highly of Hall County athletics and this will more than likely be an unduplicated feat.”

Tonight Humphrey, the first athlete from Hall County to reach the WNBA, and her Detroit Shock teammates will take on the Atlanta Dream at sold-out Philips Arena. Then Sunday Owings will pitch for the Arizona Diamondbacks against Tom Glavine and the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.

“It’s always comforting to come back home for Micah,” Vickery said. “It’s also always nerve-racking to come back home and pitch. He handled it well last year though, and I’m sure he will this year.”

In his first professional appearance in Georgia, the then-rookie Owings had his best game yet with the Diamondbacks. He went 4-for-5 including a pair of home runs, drove in six runs, and pitched a three-hitter through seven innings in a 12-6 win over Atlanta last August.

Owings, who graduated from Gainesville High in 2002 after leading the Red Elephants to back-to-back state titles, told the Associated Press following his performance in Atlanta last year, “It’s up there with the best ever,” Owings said. “To be back home and have the game I had tonight, I’m just unbelievably blessed.”

It’s the hopes of those whose watchful eyes will be on Humphrey tonight that the former All-American at the University of Georgia will have as fruitful a first professional appearance as Owings did last year.

Regardless of the outcome of tonight’s game, Humphrey’s supporters are simply excited that the 2004 graduate of Gainesville High has the opportunity to play at the highest level. And after watching her lead the Red Elephants to three state titles while tallying 2,663 points and 1,228 rebounds, they’re confident she is making the most of it.

“Tasha was always a good girl in the classroom and on the court,” her Gainesville Middle School basketball coach Faith Simpson said. “It’s great to see her fulfill her dreams and come back to the area to show off.

“I will watch her every opportunity I get,” Simpson added. “It’s always fun to have the memories of when she played middle school — I can still see her giving it her all even at the middle school level and I’m sure she’s continued to do that.”

Owings, who finished with an 8-8 record and a 4.30 ERA in 2007, is 5-2 record with a 3.81 ERA while batting .323 with one home run and three RBIs in his second season with Arizona.

“Nothing suprises me about what this young man does,” Vickery said. “I thought he’d be this good, I’m not shocked at all.

“Watching him on the mound at Turner Field makes me feel mighty good,” Vickery said. “He’s awful special and it’s a good feeling especially when I consider that Micah is just as good a person as he is a player. He carries himself well and Gainesville is proud for him to be a Red Elephant.”



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