Holmes' journey lands him back in Omaha

OMAHA, NE – Justin Holmes wants to have to figure out where the next piece of equipment will be stored on his body.

The former Georgia shortstop collects the protective gear Bulldog batters use while at the plate when they get to first base - where he is the Dawgs' coach.

The gear is no longer needed when the bags are occupied by Dawgs, so they hand excess gear to Holmes. The move has become a superstition the Dawgs do not mess with.

"You don't want to stop the momentum by going to the dugout to give the stuff to those guys – it slows down the game after we have a man on board," Holmes said.

Holmes has been around baseball long enough to know about superstitions… and other things, too. Like going to the College World Series and winning the SEC – both things the Dawgs accomplished this season as they did in 2004 when Holmes was the program's top infielder.

That's why Holmes can give unique perspective into Omaha, Rosenblatt Stadium and all the other traditions that come with getting to the CWS. And while the ultimate goal of this trip to the Midwest is a national title, Holmes said he is so happy to be back with the Dawgs.

"I love the fact that I was able to come back and coach my alma mater," Holmes said.

The Orlando native got that chance after he ended his four-year career in the Frontier League, an independent baseball league in Michigan. He said the chance to play baseball for the love of the game – not the business-like atmosphere of Minor League Baseball – was something he was glad he had the chance to do.

"I had a great career. About the only thing I didn't get the chance to do in baseball was take an at ball in the bigs… but how many guys have that shot? I mean, look at me. Everything I did came from earning it through hard work and listening to coaches," Holmes said.

Holmes said he decided to end his days of playing baseball after figuring it was time to move on.

"I was at peace with it," Homes admitted. "I had my degree, and I wanted to get into coaching. I think it would have been hard for be to give up playing had I not gotten the chance I did with indy ball."

As a member of Georgia's 2004 SEC Championship squad, Holmes got the chance to play for in the CWS, but came up just short – ending tied for third in the NCAA after being knocked out by Texas. Holmes, who also coaches the Bulldogs' infielders has the credentials for that spot. He still holds the school record for career fielding percentage for a shortstop at .951.

After his career ended at Georgia, Holmes was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 26th round of the Major League Baseball Draft. He spent two years in the Indians' organization, and then wound up playing for the Traverse City Beach Bums where he was no bum at all – a two-time All-Star selection for Traverse City while hitting .267 with 27 RBI in 2006 and .268-5-39 in 2007.

The former Dawg admits that it's a little different to coach rather than play – something he's been forced to get used to.

"As a player you can get into the game and change what's going on. As a coach you have to rely on what the players are doing. They get to play – we get to hope," he said.

Holmes hopes this trip to Nebraska ends with a national title. To do that, however, Holmes is going to have to carry a lot of extra batting gear – something he's willing to do.

Holmes during his trip to the CWS in 2004

Holmes with Georgia coach David Perno

Holmes coaching at first base during the Athens Super Regional.


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