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Rallying Around a Rival

Sept. 18, 2010

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Just the other day, Deck McGuire was getting in a workout at Georgia Tech with just a week or so left before he reports to the Toronto Blue Jays organization.

It was pure luck that he was there inasmuch as I was at Russ Chandler Stadium to work up a story about Tech’ winning the ACC team sportsmanship award for the 2009-10 school year.

To a great degree, it was McGuire’s idea last fall for he and his teammates to solicit donations before the Georgia-Georgia Tech football game on behalf of Chance Veazey, a University of Georgia student. He was, prior to a scooter accident last fall on UGA’s campus, also a freshman baseball player.

Veazey is still a Georgia student. He no longer plays baseball, though, because he is paralyzed from the waist down.

McGuire was jokingly lamenting the fact that he had yet to buy a suit before reporting to the Jays’ Florida-based facility. He wasn’t in a jovial mood when talking about Veazey.

“One of [last year’s] seniors, Jay Dantzler, brought it to us that Chance was [in Buckhead’s] Shepherd Spinal Center so one Friday we went and visited him and had a great time,” said McGuire, whom Toronto drafted in the first round and signed a contract with a signing bonus of about $2 million after his junior season.

“A couple of us got together and decided to go to tailgates at the [Georgia] game and raise as much money as we could.”

The baseball team raised more than $2,000 in cash that day.

What the Yellow Jackets did was far more valuable.

“It was a heck of a thing,” said baseball coach Danny Hall. “Any time something tragic like that happens, it’s nice to see a team from another school, a rival school, rally around.

“Most fans probably don’t get that part of it. All they look at is did you win or did you lose. I got tremendous positive feedback not only from our fans, but [UGA president] Michael Adams sent me a note as well.”

Veazey took summer classes on-line while home in Tifton, and is on the UGA campus this fall attending classes. He’s able to drive a car with special hand controls, and he’ll begin work today as a student assistant with the UGA baseball team.

Tech swept the Bulldogs in three baseball games last season, which meant plenty to the Jackets, but probably not as much as it would have if not for Chance Veazey’s situation.

“Chance came in when Georgia played here, and it was kind of special,” said Zach Brewster, a Tech pitcher from North Hall High. “A lot of us have played each other in Georgia high schools, and we know each other.”

Pitcher Kevin Jacob is not from Georgia; he’s from Baltimore. He gets it in another way.

“Him being a baseball player at Georgia . . . it’s a rivalry, but still it’s a baseball fraternity,” Jacob said. “We were going around to a lot of tailgates and most people were very willing to give whether it was Georgia Tech or Georgia-based fans. They respected what we were doing.”

How could anyone not respect this?

“It says a lot about not only Deck, but all the guys on our team,” coach Hall said. “I’m proud of `em.”

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