Gainesville vs. South Effingham, 4 p.m.
Buford at Locust Grove, 4 p.m.
North Hall at Whitewater, 5 p.m.
Jefferson at Callaway, 5 p.m.
Jackson County at Westminster, 4 p.m.
Many of Micah Owings’ fondest memories happened on Gainesville’s baseball diamond at Ivey-Watson Field. Now, his No. 25 will hang alongside Cris Carpenter’s as the only two retired in Red Elephants baseball history.
Taking a year away from Major League Baseball after last playing in the Florida Marlins’ organization, Owings will have his jersey retired between games during today’s Class AAAAA state quarterfinal series for Gainesville against South Effingham at Ivey-Watson.
Gainesville coach Jeremy Kemp said the plan is to have Owings, who steered Gainesville to state championships in 2001 and 2002, throw out the ceremonial opening pitch before Game 2 of the doubleheader.
“I’m humbled and very blessed to have my number retired at Gainesville,” Owings said. “I would just like to thank my family for all their prayers and support during my life and career.
“God is good.”
Owings, 32, has experienced many great moments on the biggest stage in baseball. In college, he was part of Tulane University’s program which advanced to the 2005 College World Series.
He went on to post a 32-33 record and 4.86 ERA with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds.
Still, he’ll never forget those back-to-back state championship squads for the Red Elephants, when he was a dominant right-handed pitcher and power hitter. Owings said was able to speak with the Gainesville players before their second-round series against Evans just last week. He said pulling up the steep driveway to the field caused a flood of memories and emotions.
Just as important as the individual accomplishments during his career were the two years spent playing with his younger brother, Jon Mark.
Owings said tonight he’ll have his family, including parents, four siblings and a number of nieces and nephews on hand to see his number placed beside that of his friend Carpenter, who Owings said was instrumental in his development as a pitching coach during his three years (2000-2002) playing for Gainesville.
He’ll also have friends from his high school years, including teammates Bryan Brinson and Peter Hughes, there for the occasion. Owings said it’s important to recognize the entire body of great players who suited up to make Gainesville dominant during those years.
“You don’t land on the map as a player without the hard work of an entire team,” said Owings, who hopes to make a return to the mound later this year for a Winter League circuit, possibly in Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.
During his years wearing the Red Elephants’ uniform, Owings played for coach Wayne Vickery, now the outgoing athletic director at Gainesville. Two of Owings’ numbers as a high school pitcher stand out for Vickery among them all: 121 and 3. As a senior for Gainesville, Owings (12-1 in 2002) recorded 121 strikeouts and only allowed three walks.
“I tell you what, 121 strikeouts and only three walks is a record that speaks for itself,” Vickery said. “You never say never, but I don’t think that’s one that’ll ever be matched.”
Owings’ hitting numbers are what set him apart as a double threat. For his high school career, he recorded 69 home runs, which is one shy of a national record. Twenty-five of those came as a senior.
“And Micah’s a better person than he is a baseball player,” said Vickery. “He’s considerate and family oriented.
“When he came to Gainesville, he didn’t know many people and by the time he was a senior, he was one of the most liked people in the school.”
Even though Owings isn’t pitching in the majors this season, he still plans on making it back. His main goal is to get his arm back into peak shape, similar to when he recorded an 8-0 record for the Diamondbacks during the 2011 season.
Owings broke into the bigs with a splash in 2007 with the Diamondbacks, posting an 8-8 mark and 4.30 ERA. His most memorable game his rookie season was the first in front of friends and family at Turner Field against the Atlanta Braves, when he smacked a pair of home runs while earning the win on the mound.
Currently, Gainesville junior Farris Mance wears the 25 jersey. According to Vickery, Mance was given the opportunity to wear it next year as a senior, but said he’ll wear a different number.