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Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame: Owings named one of Elite 10
Gainesville High grad and Cincinnati Reds pitcher Micah Owings rounds third base after a homer against the St. Louis Cardinals during a 2009 game in St. Louis. - photo by The Associated Press

Micah Owings has always been a bit of an anomaly as far as baseball players go.

Major league pitchers that hit for power are about as hard to come by as any other distinction in professional sports. But Owings, who graduated from Gainesville High in 2002, didn’t wait for his major league callup with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007 to start hitting for power.

“Micah could flat lose some balls during batting practice when he was in high school,” said former Gainesville High coach Wayne Vickery. “Players that special don’t come along very often.”

The hard-throwing right-hander has always been a power hitter and still owns state high school records with home runs in a single season (25) and in a career (69). Vickery says that one of Owings’ greatest displays of power came in the 2002 state finals against Loganville.

Owings was down 0-2 in the count against Loganville’s pitcher Brandon Moss — now a starting outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates — and on the next pitch, which crossed the plate at around his ankles, he connected and planted it well over the right field fence at Ivey-Watson Field.

Owings, who also recorded the championship game victories during the Red Elephants’ title runs in 2001 and 2002, recorded 121 strikeouts and only allowed three walks his senior season, which is still a state record.

“Records are made to be broken, but I don’t see that one getting broken,” Vickery added. “I think Micah’s control is really what got him to the major leagues so fast.”

Owings is the next in the list of selections for the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame’s Elite 10.

Owings’ ability to hit the home run hasn’t ceased just because he’s now facing major league pitching and hitting only every fifth day. Since breaking into the big leagues in 2007, Owings has eight home runs, which is tied for most home runs among pitchers during that time span. Two of those home runs came against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field in 2007.

Owings’ leadership has produced some highly successful teams wherever he’s played. Not only does he have two state titles from high school, but he was also a central part of Tulane University’s run to the 2005 College World Series, finishing the season with 18 home runs, 63 RBI’s and strikeouts on the mound (131), all of which were team highs.

Owings was drafted in the third round of the 2005 draft by Arizona and spent the remainder of the season with its Single-A affiliate Lancaster JetHawks.

The 2006 season was Owings’ only full season in the minor leagues, splitting time between the Double-A Tennessee Smokies and Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders. He finished the season with a combined 16-2 record.

Owings was traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Cincinnati Reds at the tail end of the 2008 season.

This year, the Gainesville High graduate has a 6-9 record, 4.94 ERA with 57 strikeouts over 94 2/3 innings pitched with the Reds.

“I think the best thing about Micah is that he’s a greater person, a caring person, than he is a baseball player,” Vickery added.

The Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is located in the Northeast Georgia History Center on the campus of Brenau University.

The History Center will recognize athletic excellence at a luncheon at 11:30 a.m., Aug. 29, at the Georgia Mountains Center in downtown Gainesville. Guest speaker Damon Evans, Athletics Director for the University of Georgia, will help honor 15 Northeast Georgia Athletes and one highly successful team. There will be five retired athletes inducted into the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. An additional “Elite 10” athletes, some of Northeast Georgia’s best athletes of the last 10 years.

Table sponsorships are available for $350, and table sponsors may choose to have their table host one of the athletes to be recognized on a first-come, first-served basis. A limited number of individual tickets are available for $25. Call the History Center at 770-297-5900 to make your reservations.

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