13 is lucky

Published 7:59 pm Wednesday, October 1, 2008

GREAT FALLS, MT – Who says that 13 is an unlucky number?

Don’t tell that to Dexter Carter or the Chicago White Sox. For them, the number 13 symbolizes something magical, a Pioneer League Championship.

Carter, a Murfreesboro native and son of Larry and Selena Carter, was taken in the 13th round of the June Amateur Baseball Draft by the White Sox. Just after completing his junior year at Old Dominion University, he signed a professional contract and was sent to the White Sox Rookie league team in Great Falls, Montana. This is where the magical ride begins.

The Great Falls Voyagers play in the Northern Division of the eight-team Pioneer League, with teams located in Montana, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. In case you don’t have a map to find where these states are, they are roughly 2,500 miles from his home here in northeastern North Carolina.

Some of the major league teams represented include the Diamondbacks, Brewers, and Reds. For baseball historians, such names as Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Pedro Martinez, and many others have gotten there start in this league.

The Pioneer League season began on June 22 and for two and one-half months, became a nightly routine for Carter and his teammates. What baseball player wouldn’t love to play 66 games over a 74 day span? Carter, being a starting pitcher, took the mound every fifth day. He recorded his first professional win on June 29th against the Billings Mustangs.

Over the course of the season, Carter would rack up five more victories and suffer a lone loss. For the regular season, his stats were as follows: 6-1, 2.23 ERA, 69 innings pitched and 89 strikeouts. These stats were good enough to rank Carter in the top 10 of almost all pitching categories.

To appreciate where he finished the regular season, he was third in wins, first in earned run average, and second in strikeouts (he finished one K behind teammate and roommate Dan Hudson). For the week of July 21 – July 27, he and Hudson were selected as Pioneer League co-pitchers of the week. The most telling statistic of Carter’s rookie season, he appeared in 18 games for the Voyagers and they won 16.

Playoffs in the Pioneer League consisted of a best two-out-of-three divisional series between the top two teams in each division. The winners of each divisional series met in a two-out-of-three championship series.

As a result of his outstanding regular season, Carter was chosen to start game one of the Pioneer League Championship series versus the Orem Owls. Playing at home in Great Falls, he pitched five innings, gave up two hits, two runs, struck out nine, and got the win. The Voyagers would go on to win the championship in three games.

For his efforts during the season, Carter was selected as a member of the 15-man Pioneer League All-Star team. The awards did not stop at being labeled an all-star. His coaches and teammates also selected him as the Voyagers Pitching MVP as well. Not a bad rookie season by any standards.

The post season accolades continued to pile up for Carter. Publications such as Baseball America ranked him as the ninth best prospect in the Pioneer league, the fourth best pitcher. Perfect Game Crosschecker, another scouting service, ranked Carter’s season as the fifth best among players making their rookie debut.

For now, Carter is headed to Arizona for a five-week stint at the White Sox instructional facility. Next spring, the destination is likely back to NC, where the White Sox have minor league teams in Winston-Salem, Kannapolis and Charlotte. At 6-foot-6 with a fastball ranging from 91-94 mph, the sky is the limit. For Carter, 13 sounds like a pretty lucky number.