Once overlooked, Demons in Triple-A

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Former Glenn Hills and Augusta State product Chris Demons thought his professional baseball career had ended before it began.

"I definitely thought that," he said. "I came out of my senior year at Augusta State, and I didn't get drafted. I took off the whole summer to reorganize my priorities."

Demons didn't give up on his dream, and now, two years later, he's one step away from the major leagues. The 24-year-old outfielder was promoted last weekend from the New York-Penn League to Triple-A.

It's a rare move to jump from short-season to one step below the big leagues, but Demons didn't hesitate.

"They didn't tell me why, and I wasn't about to ask any questions," he said.

In the New York-Penn League, Demons was hitting .242 in 52 games, with 15 RBI and 19 stolen bases in 21 attempts for the Auburn Doubledays.

It took a while for him to get acclimated to the jump in talent when he joined the Syracuse Chiefs of the International League, but Demons picked up his first hit at the Triple-A level on Wednesday night.

"It's an adjustment. The game's definitely faster," he said. "You can swing at anything (in the New York-Penn League), but here, you have to be a little more selective."

Though Demons' drive from Auburn, N.Y., to Syracuse, N.Y., ended up taking less than 90 minutes, his journey to the Triple-A level has taken much longer. When the scouts passed on him after his senior year at Augusta State, he thought his shot at professional baseball was over.

"I didn't know what I was going to do after my senior year," Demons said.

He ended up settling for a spot on an independent baseball team. The South Coast League, which included the Aiken Foxhounds, was in its inaugural season when Demons went to a tryout in 2007. He earned a spot on the South Georgia Peanuts squad in Albany, Ga.

"My head coach at Augusta State told me about this new league, so I tried it out," Demons said. "It was their first year, and I ended up getting traded to the Anderson Joes."

Demons played well enough in Anderson to get a second look from a scout with the Toronto Blue Jays. He signed with the organization and was sent to the Doubledays this summer for his first year of affiliated baseball.

After the first half of the season, he was named to the New York-Penn League's American League All-Star Team. Two weeks later, he got the call to Triple-A.

Demons said his stay in Syracuse might be short, but he's enjoying it as much as possible.

"A lot of guys are getting called up now to fill spots," he said. "We've got four more games and the season's over here, and they'll probably send me back after that to play for Auburn for their last four games of the season."

INDEPENDENT STAR: Another local product also is trying to work his way through the ranks of independent baseball.

Lloyd Turner , a second baseman for the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, turned heads with a hot bat this past week. The former Hephzibah High School standout was 9-for-24 with seven runs and five extra-base hits.

He entered the weekend leading the team with 10 triples and ranked third with a .293 average.

ALL SET: The Southern half of the South Atlantic League saw the final pieces of the postseason puzzle come together last week.

The Augusta GreenJackets clinched the SAL Southern Division's second-half championship and earned the right to face the first-half champion Asheville Tourists in the first round of the SAL playoffs.

The GreenJackets will play host to the Tourists in Game 1 of the best-of-three series on Wednesday. The rest of the series will be played in Asheville.

Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or billy.byler@augustachronicle.com.


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