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Gamecock Baseball Alumni Reflect on Program's Growth and Success

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Baseball is in the air with the World Series now underway and South Carolina Baseball recently held their Alumni Weekend during fall practice. A record-high 128 former letterwinners and coaches returned to Columbia for the weekend's festivities including a golf outing and an Alumni Game at Carolina Stadium.

"It's real enjoyable to come back. For people that haven't been back here yet to see this ballpark, it's an amazing place to see, wish I had the opportunity to play in it," said former pitcher Blake Taylor (2001-02). "A lot of lasting relationships were built while I was here so it's fun to get back and visit with the guys, catch up and share old memories."

Taylor still holds the South Carolina record for saves with 21 in the 2002 season and may have been the true original "Sandstorm" fan - it was his pitching intro song in 2002.

"I was the closer and it did not get the reception that it gets today! Nobody knew what it was, everybody looked at me like I was crazy - this isn't baseball music," said Taylor, laughing. "Everybody thought I was crazy coming out to it, but now everybody loves it...I'm glad it caught on."

Catching up with friends and reminiscing on their own time at Carolina is one of the most fun parts of the Alumni Weekend for many of the participants.

"Anytime there's a chance to come back and see your former teammates and friends and the family of Gamecock Nation, it's good to get back," said All-American catcher Landon Powell (2001-04). "I just got back from the baseball season about a week ago, but I was looking forward to this weekend and getting down here to see a bunch of old buddies."

Normally behind the plate, Powell (currently  in the majors with the Oakland A's) threw batting practice before the game at Carolina Stadium.

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Landon Powell throwing BP. Click here to see more photos from Alumni Weekend.

While no one will ever forget the magic of Sarge Frye, Carolina Stadium has created several amazing moments of his own in just three years. The new ballpark was quite a sight for former players visiting for the first time since it opened. Chris Plummer (3B, 2000-01) gushed about the stadium.

"One word: wow. It's just amazing," said Plummer. "Everything is first class - locker room, weight room, the stands. It's really cool to be a part of."

It was also the first visit to Carolina Stadium for Ryan Bordenick (1995-98), who was named an All-American in both 1997 (DH) and 1998 (UT).

"It's absolutely amazing," said Bordenick. "I played seven years in the minor leagues and traveled around the country. This ballpark is nicer than 90% of the ballparks I played in. And that was a professional level, so they definitely did it right. I'm very proud to see the program doing well."

That same feeling of pride in the program was expressed by many of the former players, all gratified that the groundwork laid by past great teams was finally rewarded with back-to-back National Championships.

"The national recognition is nice, we've been getting that for the last decade. But when you win it once people are like, 'oh well it was about y'all's time.' But you win it back to back and they're like, 'these guys are for real.'" said All-American and 10-year MLB'er, Adam Everett (SS, 1997-98). "It's really nice to see what Coach Tanner's done. He's done it the right way. It's a lot of fun to watch them. I'm very proud to be a part of this program."

 "I'm really happy for Coach Tanner. He was a joy to play under and I'm really happy that he's been so successful," said Taylor. "We got him as close as we could [national runner-up in 2002], but unfortunately we didn't win it. I'm glad he finally got over the hump and got two of them. He's the best coach in America right now."

"I played the first two years that Coach Tanner was here. We knew Carolina program was on the up with him and he's the best coach in America in my book," said Bordenick. "To see him do well, to see the performance, it makes us all feel good, that all that hard work we did in the past is starting to pay off."

"It's cool to see them win the championship. It's emotional for me even watching it on TV you feel like you had a small part in that," said Powell. "This ballpark is amazing, this program is amazing. It's just growing and growing. It's just exciting to be an alumni and see what this baseball program is accomplishing. I'm happy for all the coaches and players and I think we all feel like we had a part in it."

Indeed, they did.
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Back-to-Back National Champions: 2010-2011

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