North Augusta teammates reunite in minors

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A pair of former North Augusta High School baseball players will become teammates at the professional level this week when Marty Gantt and Taylor Guerrieri take the field in the New York-Penn League.

The two former Yellow Jackets were both drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays, Guerreri last year and Gantt two weeks ago, and were assigned to the Hudson Valley Renegades at the rookie ball level. The team’s season starts Monday at home in Wapperings Falls, N.Y. against the Aberdeen Iron Birds.

Gantt and Guerrieri didn’t get much time together at North Augusta. Gantt was a senior when Guerrieri was a freshman, but Gantt went on to play at the College of Charleston, while Guerrieri, who left North Augusta for Spring Valley High School in Columbia in the middle of his senior year, chose to scratch his original plans to play at the University of South Carolina when the Rays took him in the first round last year and gave him a $1.6 million signing bonus.

Both players pitched in high school, but Gantt was converted to an outfielder in college. Both will be making their professional debuts this week.

COMEBACK: Former Augusta GreenJackets first baseman Angel Villalona returned to professional baseball for the first time in three years last week when he joined the San Francisco Giants’ affiliate in the Dominican Summer League.

Villalona, who was just 17 years old and a highly touted prospect when he helped the GreenJackets win the South Atlantic League championship in 2008, saw his career come to a screeching halt a year later when he was charged with murder following a bar fight in the Dominican Republic.

The charges were eventually dropped after Villalona reportedly settled with the family of the victim for $139,000. But the power-hitting corner infielder hasn’t been allowed entry back into the U.S. since then.

Villalona finally returned to the diamond Thursday and went 1 for 4 with a single and run scored. He went 2 for 4 in his second game back as the team’s starting first baseman.

PACER PROGRESS: Another USC Aiken product made his professional debut Friday. Stephen Carmon, the star shortstop for the Pacers this past season, was drafted in the 10th round by the San Diego Padres and assigned to the Eugene Emeralds in the short-season Northwest League.

Carmon went 0 for 3 with a walk, a stolen base and a run scored in his first game. His team blew a 5-1 lead by giving up four runs in the eighth but came back for a walk-off win in the 10th against the Yakima Bears.

COMFORT VOTING: The minor league baseball team that won the 2011 promotion of the year award with a Dallas Braden Bobblebelly giveaway was at it again Friday night with another creative promotion that embraced the political season.

The Stockton Ports, Advanced-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, held a presidential seat cushion giveaway Friday night with cushions that featured the faces of President Barak Obama on one side and Republican challenger Mitt Romney on the other side.

Fans who received the seat cushions were encouraged to pick their preferred candidate, then sit on the face of the other politician.

CLINCHED: The first half of the South Atlantic League season will wrap up today with the Asheville Tourists claiming the Southern Division championship and a spot in the postseason.

The Tourists, Single-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, were 47-21 with a 6.5-game lead on second place Charleston and Savannah heading into Saturday’s action.

The Greensboro Grasshoppers led the Northern Division by 1.5 games over the Hagerstown Suns entering Saturday’s play.


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