Gwinnett Stripers’ Xavier Avery almost was the next great UGA running back

Outfielder Xavier Avery of the Gwinnett Stripers. Avery is a graduate of Cedar Grove High School in DeKalb County and once signed to play football for the Georgia Bulldogs. (Photo by Bob Chadwick)
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Outfielder Xavier Avery of the Gwinnett Stripers. Avery is a graduate of Cedar Grove High School in DeKalb County and once signed to play football for the Georgia Bulldogs. (Photo by Bob Chadwick)

Xavier Avery once had an opportunity to don the red and black of the Georgia Bulldogs, but he passed on wearing silver britches when the Baltimore Orioles came calling in the second round of the 2008 MLB draft.

Now he sometimes sports neon green at Coolray Field, where he has played with the Triple-A Gwinnett Stripers since April 2017.

But before Avery landed at the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate, he was a three-star recruit out of Cedar Grove High School in Ellenwood. Known for his speed and ability to play both offense and defense, Avery, who played running back and safety in high school, was not targeted for one specific position but rather as an “athlete.” He was offered a full scholarship to play football for the Bulldogs.

Off the gridiron, Avery used his speed on the baseball field, where he was perfect in stolen bases his junior year, recording 47 without being caught. He was slated to play baseball at Georgia, too.

That versatility meant Georgia wasn’t the only team trying to recruit the outfielder. He also had offers from big names such as Alabama, Oklahoma, Florida and Stanford. But he turned them all down for a chance to play in the major leagues.

“I’ve been playing professional baseball for 10 years. I’ve been to the major leagues. (I’m) trying to get back. I’ve had a good career,” he said when asked if he wished he had attended UGA.

Avery played 32 games with the Orioles in 2012 before returning to the minor leagues and is trying to break into the upper ranks again.

“It’s just a matter of consistency,” he said before the Stripers’ game against the Toledo Mud Hens on Wednesday. “Being persistent. Keep going. Surviving the hard times. That’s what baseball is, surviving the hard times, and I’ve survived a lot of hard times.”

The 28-year-old might have carved a different path had he enrolled at Georgia and played under Mark Richt, but he is content with where he is and likes where things are headed in Athens.

“I like Kirby Smart,” he said. “I think that’s a good move for Georgia. I think he’s going to bring more of a winning tradition there.”

Perhaps Avery can keep making catches such as the one he grabbed against the Durham Bulls last week to help the Stripers' start their own winning tradition in Lawrenceville.