Jerry Owens’ baseball career appeared finished when he headed to UCLA to play football. Now it’s thriving. Owens, a Hart High product who revived his baseball dreams when he left UCLA for The Master’s College, has seen his stock as a baseball player rise so much in the past year that he could soon be in the major leagues. As an outfielder in the Chicago White Sox system, Owens led the Double-A Southern League in batting last season. He just returned from playing in the Venezuelan winter league, where he batted .356 and drew praise from White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, whose team is in need of a center fielder. Owens has been invited to Chicago’s major-league camp for spring training and is expected to be among three rookies competing for the vacant outfield job. “To have the manager of the team that won the World Series tell you he’s pleased with what you’re doing and you could be a part of his team, that feels pretty good,” Owens said, referring to an offseason conversation with Guillen. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake While Guillen was in his native Venezuela to show off the White Sox’s World Series trophy, he made a point to watch Owens, who was acquired in a February trade from the Washington Nationals. Guillen was impressed enough with what he saw to give rave reviews in the Chicago media, and he said there shouldn’t be reason to worry about the vacancy in center field created by the White Sox’s trade of Aaron Rowand. “The way he played, the way he handled himself, the way he caught the ball, it really opened my eyes,” Guillen told the Chicago Sun-Times about Owens. “This kid can do a lot.” Owens, a 2003 second-round draft pick, did plenty in his first season playing above the Single-A level. In addition to batting a league-best .331, he set the Birmingham Barons’ modern-era record for stolen bases with 38, the third-best total in the Southern League. He was second in the league in runs (99) and seventh in on-base percentage (.393). His 173 hits in 130 games were 24 ahead of the league’s No. 2 total. Owens’ confidence was further boosted when he held his own in Venezuela, where rosters are dotted with major-leaguers. Despite being known for his speed, Owens is spending the offseason working diligently to get even faster. He returned home early, a few weeks before the Venezuelan season ended, to begin preparing for the upcoming season. He trains with a speed coach and does weight training. He knows improved endurance will be vital if he is in the big leagues, where the season is a month longer than what he is used to in the minors. Owens will try to approach spring training the same as usual, not wanting to be weighed down by expectations. “I don’t really look at it as more pressure,” said Owens, who has been added to the White Sox’s 40-man roster. “I’m a big believer in the fact God has a plan for my life. I’ll see where it takes me. It hasn’t always gone the way I expected. If it’s in his plans for me to be in the big leagues, I just want to make sure I’ve done everything I can to prepare for it. The last thing I want to do is not perform well and look back and say I could have worked harder and done more to prepare.” — Heather Gripp, (818)713-3607 email@example.comWant local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!