June 1, 2012


Charleston's Heart and Soul

Gantt overcomes adversity to lead Cougars


By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder



Growing up, Marty Gantt wanted to be like everyone else.


But Gantt, now a senior centerfielder at College of Charleston, always has had a knack for sticking out.


These days, Gantt is the sparkplug for the Cougars, who tied Appalachian State for the regular-season title in the Southern Conference and snagged one of the final at-large bids to the NCAA tournament. With a .375 average, 10 homers, 44 RBI, 25 stolen bases and a .612 slugging percentage, he’s gotten every little thing out of his 5-9 frame to the tune of being named the Southern Conference Player of the Year, a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award and a third-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger.


“As a player, he’s a special player; he is the heart and soul of this ball club,” College of Charleston coach Monte Lee said. “He’s also one of the most hard-nosed players I’ve ever coached. He’s one of those guys you coach once in a lifetime.”


What makes Gantt’s storybook year even more amazing is the reason he wanted to be like every other kid. Gantt was born with an underdeveloped right hand – while in the womb, the umbilical cord wrapped around his fingertips stunting growth. His fingers end where most people’s fingers bend at the knuckles.


“I don’t look at it as a disability, and I don’t think anyone should,” Gantt said this week from Gainesville, Fla., where third-seeded College of Charleston will battle with No. 1 Florida, second-seeded Georgia Tech and fourth-seeded Bethune-Cookman.


But as a kid, plenty of other kids did see his hand as a disability. And kids can be awfully cruel. They teased and picked on Gantt.


“That can kind of get to you as a little kid and break you down,” Gantt said. “That’s always a hard thing. When you’re a little kid, you want to be like everyone else. People picked on me because I didn’t have a normal hand.”


Gantt remembers his mother telling him not to let his hand stand in the way. He remembers her encouragement, telling him he could do anything. Gantt was “about 5 or 6” at the time.


“She made me who I am today,” Gantt said of his mother Theresa.


Gantt played baseball, basketball and football growing up. Football was always fun, he said, because, you got to hit people. By the age of 12, though, he realized he was going to be a pretty good baseball player.  


From North Augusta, S.C., he began playing travel ball when he was 16 for the South Carolina Diamond Devils, who were based in Charleston. And he became a superstar at North Augusta High School. He batted .486 and went 9-3 with a 1.33 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 84 innings as a junior in 2007, becoming what Lee believes to be the only junior in South Carolina history to be named Mr. Baseball. As a senior his ERA was 1.44 and he was one pitch – a hit batter in the second inning of a game against Aiken – from a perfect game and had to settle for a no-hitter.


He originally signed with South Carolina but attended Spartanburg Methodist for two years, where he was named all-region both years and a member of the NJCAA All-Star team in 2010. He joined the Cougars last year, hitting .329 with seven homers, 44 RBI and 55 walks in 61 starts as the leadoff man. The lefty also made five appearances on the mound, picking up a save.


“The handicap that he was born with makes it even more impressive,” Lee said. “The fact that the guy can play at the level he plays at with a hand not fully developed is incredible.”


Gantt, who admits he misses pitching because of being in control and setting the tempo of the game, started the season in the 3-hole. As one of only a few returners in a revamped Cougars lineup, Lee needed Gantt to drive in runs. A little past the midway point, Lee put Gantt back in the leadoff spot. 


“I think he’s as complete a player as we have had in our league in a long time,” Elon coach Mike Kennedy said. “He competes every at-bat, never gives away an at-bat. He has gap-to-gap power and is just a tough out.


“Maybe his best attribute is that he plays hard and never takes a play of. We were aware of his hand and I think what he’s done is incredible. He certainly didn’t let any physical limitations affect his play.”


Because of his hand – the top hand in his right-handed swing – Gantt typically lets go of the bat at the point of contact and extends through the zone with one hand. Lee said that about the only thing he can’t do is check his swing.


As his college days wind down, Gantt again is looking for acceptance. He wants to finish strong with the Cougars, and he wants a Major League team to give him a shot.


“Even though I don’t have a full hand, I want to prove to people that I can play baseball at a high level,” Gantt said.


Gantt has proven it time and time again. And he’s proven it time and time again that – as hard as he tries – he’s not like everyone else. He’s better.


(photos courtesy of CofC Media Relations Office)