Newton latest to be called up to the minor leagues|[6/30/05]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 30, 2005

Craig Newton spent Wednesday mowing the lawn at his house preparing to enter the workforce in Birmingham on Tuesday.

Then the phone rang.

“I was planning on going to work and a guy called and asked if I wanted to play ball. I said, ‘heck yeah, I want to play,'” said Newton, who went undrafted after a stellar career with Delta State. “He said he was 99 percent sure they wanted me and that he’d call back later in the afternoon. He called back and asked if my bags were packed.”

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So instead of venturing to Birmingham, the former Warren Central catcher flew out of Jackson today for New Jersey. He’ll be playing for the New Jersey Cardinals of the New York-Penn League.

“It didn’t matter who called,” Newton said this morning. “I would have played for the Devil Rays, Tigers, whatever. I just wanted a chance.”

Newton will be among some familiar faces in the short-season Class A league.

Brian Pettway, who led Ole Miss to the NCAA Super Regionals, will be playing for the Auburn Doubledays in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.

Shea Douglas, who reached Class AA Akron in the Cleveland Indians organization, is playing for the Mahonig Valley Scrappers. Douglas has been battling recurring arm injuries.

“What are the chances that something like that would happen?” Newton said. “It’s pretty exciting to a couple of guys up there.”

The New York-Penn League is just above a major league team’s rookie league. The season begins in mid-June and plays about 80 games.

Another former Viking, Taylor Tankersley, advanced to Greensboro of the South Atlantic League, one step ahead of the New York- Penn League.

Players usually advance through the system to low-A ball, such as Greensboro, then to high-A ball. double-A follows, then triple-A and finally the majors.

Tankersley and Douglas have seen action on the mound already. Douglas has appeared in two games with a 1-0 record. He’s thrown four innings and struck out six.

Tankersley has started three games and is 1-2 with a 3.94 ERA. The first-round pick of the Florida Marlins in the 2004 draft suffered from a case of tendenitis in his elbow and began the season rehabbing in Florida.

If he advances to double-A, the University of Alabama graduate could pitch in Mississippi. The Carolina Mudcats, Florida’s double-A team, and the Mississippi Braves are both in the Southern League.

Neither the Indians nor Blue Jays are affiliated with the Southern League.