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Home for the holidays: Together again
Justin Fordham on the field in his senior year at Gainesville High.

Justin Fordham and Zach Bennett know what it means to be teammates.

The pair began to play baseball together when they were 13 years old and continued to play ball together through their high school careers at Gainesville, which included three Class AAA state playoff appearances in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

And after a year apart, the two will once again take the field as teammates.

Bennett transferred from North Georgia College & State University to join Fordham at South Georgia College after his freshman season this year.

“It was an incredible experience,” Bennett said of his time at NGCSU. “I learned so much from Coach (Tom) Cantrell. I learned more in the last year of college baseball then I ever have.”

Fordham is excited about Bennett transfering to South Georgia.

“I’m glad he decided to come to South Georgia,” Fordham said of Bennett. “He’s a great player and a great hitter. We’re very happy to have him. I think he will do a lot for our team and I’m glad I have someone I know there. Starting out my freshman year I didn’t know anybody. It’s good to have someone to talk to.”

Bennett decided to transfer to South Georgia this summer when he and Fordham played for the Gainesville Travelers team, a newly formed wooden bat summer outfit.

“In the summer, I played with Justin and (one of his South Georgia teammates) Bray Bishop,” Bennett said. “And both on the field and off the field it just clicked. I asked them about the team and it just felt like (South Georgia College) was the place for me. That was the place to play ball my sophomore year.”

“It was a lot of fun,” Fordham added. “It was a great time both on and off the field and it clicked from the get-go.”

In his freshman year as a Saint, Bennett helped NGCSU to a 34-24 season record, and hit .267 with 16 runs scored, 16 RBIs, four home runs and 43 total bases.

“I couldn’t prepare myself for what college was like,” Bennett said. “It was an incredible learning experience.”

Fordham played 14 games his freshman year. He started two games, had a win and a pair of losses on the mound and led South Georgia in fielding percentage.

“In college, you eat sleep and breathe baseball,” Fordham said. “Everything is different. It’s different to see how people from other schools practice and how they carry themselves on the field.”

When asked about being back in Gainesville after their first years in college, both Bennett and Fordham are humbled and happy to be home.

“My dad has always been my number one fan,” Bennett said. “It’s really good to be able to come home and spend time with him and talk some baseball. Also, my high school coach, Coach (Jeremy) Kemp, has always been there to help me. Being with Coach Kemp and dad has helped me a lot. It makes the long trip home that much better.”

“There’s no place like home,” Fordham added. “You really appreciate where you come from after you’ve been gone.”

As part of their visit, Bennett and Fordham also found the importance of giving back to their high school team.

“Being able to come back and help the Gainesville guys is great,” Bennett said. “A lot of them are about to make the transition from high school to college and I really enjoy being able to give them advice. It’s nerve wreaking moving up to college.”

“Anytime I can come back and help I will,” Fordham added. “It’s an honor to help Gainesville in anyway I can.”

Even with a full holiday schedule, Bennett and Fordham stay focused on the upcoming season.

As Fordham put it Tuesday night: “I’m on my way to the batting cages to throw with Zach right now.”

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