ATHENS, Ga. -- If Georgia’s baseball program ever starts the process of retiring numbers, Gordon Beckham’s No. 6 would likely be among the top candidates.
As of now, however, a Bulldogs player is actually wearing the uniform number for the first time since 2008, when Beckham wore it while putting together one of the best offensive seasons in school history.
Freshman slugger Hunter Cole brought No. 6 out of the moth balls -- and Bulldogs coach David Perno can only hope Cole enjoys similar success while wearing it.
“We’d gone a few years without it just because of the type of career and year that Gordon had,” Perno said. “But we felt like it was time to bring it back in the mix, and Hunter was probably the guy that deserves it the most.”
For the first time since his college career ended, Beckham -- the No. 8 overall pick in the 2008 MLB draft by the Chicago White Sox -- returned Wednesday to Foley Field for a game, watching the Bulldogs dispatch Georgia State 4-1.
He is scheduled to report to White Sox spring training camp Friday. But he emerged as a star pro prospect in Athens, where he etched his name in program history as the 2008 SEC Player of the Year. He batted .411, led the nation with 28 home runs and drove in 77 for the NCAA runner-up Bulldogs.
Other Bulldogs greats like Cris Carpenter, Derek Lilliquist, Jeff Keppinger, Billy Henderson, Jeff Treadway and Buck Belue would be in the mix for jersey retirement, should Georgia explore that option.
And while Beckham would also rank near the top of possible honorees, don’t expect for it to happen anytime soon, Perno said. Because college players’ careers last only a few years, the availability of jersey numbers could be cut too short if Georgia hands out the career honor too liberally.
“We never have and we don’t really have a criteria for it, but Gordon is definitely one that would be discussed,” Perno said. “The problem is you run out of numbers at the college level because you’ve got turnover and you’ve got no shot of keeping anybody like in the big leagues for 15, 16 years. So you’re constantly turned over with the draft.
“There’s been some guys that have had some great careers and great years. So you just don’t know where to start and you don’t really have a criteria. So I don’t know if it’s something that’s in the near future or if we’ll ever do it.”