Staff Photo: Jason Braverman
Parkview grads Clint Sammons, left, and Tim Gustafson will both start the season with the Gwinnett Braves.
LAWRENCEVILLE For six years, Tim Gustafson and Clint Sammons have worn the same uniform.
Well, nearly the same.
KNIGHTS AT G-BRAVES
Where: Coolray Field
Today, 7:05 p.m. (CSS)
Friday, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday, 7:05 p.m.
Sunday, 2:05 p.m.
The first two years came at Parkview High School, with Gustafson two years Sammons' junior. They played baseball and football together.
"The one state championship that I won there, he was on that team," Sammons said of his state title with the Panthers. "He was actually a pretty darn good shortstop. I doubt we'll see him there this year."
This year will be the first time since those high school years Gustafson and Sammons will be on the same team. Like their years in school, the two were drafted two years apart. The catcher Sammons is out of Georgia, the right-handed pitcher Gustafson is from Georgia Tech.
Tuesday, the two put on the same uniform, in the same clubhouse, and in their home county once again. With all their connections, there is one thing the pitcher and catcher have yet to do in a real game.
"I've actually never thrown to (Sammons) and I have always wanted to," Gustafson said. "Just watching him catch, even at Georgia, it was something that I said, I can't wait to throw to that guy.'"
Gustafson will begin the year in the G-Braves' bullpen, so his opportunity to throw to Sammons could come any moment, and when it does it will make Parkview proud. And more than Parkview will be watching.
"I know it's the same (good feeling) for him," Sammons said of Gustafson playing near home. "(It's exciting) to get a chance to have your family come and watch you every day."
Sammons learned the feeling last season in Gwinnett. He lived at home during the season and didn't need to work in time to see his family.
"Just getting a chance to sleep in your own bed is always nice," Sammons said. "Having that chance to have my parents and my brother and everybody come out and watch me play is always exciting. It makes things feel a little bit more comfortable than when you are a couple hundred miles away from home."
Comfort is how Gustafson describes his short time in Gwinnett the most. He didn't expect to start the season in Class AAA. He didn't even see it as an option.
"I was so surprised," said Gustafson, who assumed he was bound for AA Mississippi.
When the team returned from Florida over the weekend, he started looking, with his wife, for a place to live.
The hunt continued Tuesday and they are staying now with his parents in Lilburn, in his high school home.
"One, it hasn't sunk in yet. Two, it's just awesome being here," Gustafson said. "You don't have to get in the car and go to Mississippi. We are in the backyard. Friends and family who haven't seen me pitch in awhile can come and watch. It's a comfortable feeling."
Together again, Sammons and Gustafson are still apart in their situations.
Like in high school when Gustafson was coming up as an underclassman, Sammons has his eyes on a new challenge. This will be Sammons' third season in Class AAA, and possibly his fourth with a stint in the big leagues.
"This game will teach you patience pretty quick and if you don't have it, it will drive you into the ground," Sammons said. "Certainly, I would like to be in the big leagues. That is the goal."
Gustafson reached a new goal when he made the Gwinnett roster. He is healthy again, after shoulder trouble forced surgery in 2008, and excited he ended his spring higher than his expectations.
"I had no expectations of coming here," Gustafson said. "It made me feel good knowing that the organization thought that much about me to send me here."
So, for now, the two are teammates again. Gustafson should get to throw to Sammons in a real game soon enough and Sammons expects good things from Gustafson.
"As long as we keep him healthy here he is going to have a chance to progress," Sammons said.
Said Gustafson: "I am looking forward to what we can do this year as a team and as individuals."