Through the years, the Gainesville High baseball program has produced dozens of prolific athletes — at the plate and on the mound. Yet in all that history, very few, if any, have rivaled what Micah Owings accomplished in both.
Owings went a combined 24-2 in two seasons as a pitcher for the Red Elephants, his ERA staying well below 2.00 both years as he led Gainesville to a pair of state championships in 2001 and 2002. At the plate, Owings smashed a state-record 69 home runs over the course of his career.
Now, he’ll be honored as one of the school’s athletic legends in its inaugural athletic hall of fame class during Saturday’s ceremony at Scott’s Downtown. Owings is one of six players given the nod, along with legendary Gainesville football coach Bobby Gruhn.
The 1956-57 Fair Street High football team, which won back-to-back state championships, will be the first team honored for its accomplishments before schools were integrated.
As for Owings, it’s an honor that hasn’t quite set in yet.
“I came to Gainesville because of the rich tradition, because of the rich history and what Gainesville stood for,” Owings said. “There was just not really anything to compare it to when I was coming over.”
Nearly two decades after his high school career ended, Owings is now a crucial piece of that history.
Outside of the role he played in the Red Elephants’ back-to-back baseball championships, Owings was also a member of a basketball team that made a pair of state semifinal appearances. The success brought notoriety to both teams, and Owings said Gainesville’s reputation made it the perfect place to grow as an athlete.
“We always had a target on our back,” he said. “Everybody wanted to beat Gainesville, and that didn’t matter what sport. ... To be able to continually succeed and win when people were coming after you, that’s a tough thing to do.”
Owings enjoyed plenty of success after high school, playing two years for Georgia Tech before transferring to Tulane, where he would reach a College World Series. He was drafted professionally three times — the first immediately out of high school — and eventually chose to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2005 as a third-round selection.
Owings said the seed that eventually grew into those accomplishments was planted while he was pitching for the Red Elephants. The coaching staff at the time, headed by Wayne Vickery, was second to none according to Owings, and there was one pitching coach who made a particularly strong impact on him.
“Cris Carpenter was and still is a great mentor and someone I look up to, had looked up to, continue to look up to,” Owings said. “Love the guy to death, and he just helped me get onto the right track from that early on in my career, and kept it simple for me. He would tell me when I was messing up. But he would also pat me on the back and tell me when I was doing well. And I think that balance with a mentor or a coach is very important, especially at a younger age.”
Carpenter is one piece of an athletic program that is among the most prestigious in the nation, according to Owings. That he is among the first to be recognized as a Red Elephants hall of famer is a concept Owings is still trying to wrap his head around.
“To be recognized now in this elite class, it still hasn’t set in,” he said. “It might not even next week or for years to come.”