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July 25, 2014

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Sierra Vista grad plays before home crowd at Cashman Field

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

The Sacramento River Cats’ Chris Carter takes a cut in the on-deck circle during a game Saturday against the Las Vegas 51s.

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Sacramento River Cats first baseman Chris Carter heads to the dugout between innings of a game against the Las Vegas 51s on Saturday.

Sacramento River Cats first baseman Chris Carter likes being back home.

For proof, just look at Saturday night’s players’ guest list at Cashman Field.

“There’s probably close to 100 people on the list,” River Cats manager Tony DeFrancesco said. “He should be pretty excited to be play in front of people at home.”

Carter, once a state champion shortstop for Sierra Vista, is back in Las Vegas as the highest-ranked prospect in the Oakland A’s organization. In the second at-bat of his homecoming, a 2-1 Sacramento victory over the Las Vegas 51s, he smacked a two-run home run off of Brad Mills.

“I’ve been waiting for this all season,” he said before batting practice on Saturday. “When I went to Triple-A, I looked on the schedule and saw us coming here early. It’s been on my mind for a long time.”

Landing in Oakland two years ago after being involved in a pair of trades, the 23-year-old has power-hit his way into the middle of the River Cats lineup and the immediate future of the A’s.

“Everything’s been going good so far,” he said. “I’m just trying to work on my overall game, polish up and get better. Getting better is the main thing right now.”

After leading Sierra Vista to its first state crown in baseball as a senior in 2005, Carter was drafted in the 15th round of that June’s MLB Amateur Draft by the Chicago White Sox.

During the 2007 offseason, he was traded from the White Sox to Arizona for outfielder Carlos Quentin. Just two weeks later, he was traded again, from Arizona to Oakland as the key piece in a deal for starting pitcher Dan Haren.

In each of his six professional seasons, Carter has hit for double-digit home runs, including a career-high 39 in high Class-A ball in 2008.

“He has unbelievable power,” said DeFrancesco. “He’s been driving the ball good, and he has a chance to be a great player.”

DeFrancesco welcomed Carter late last season, and Carter did not disappoint, hitting four home runs in 13 games for Sacramento.

“He’s going to have plenty of time down here to get his feet wet and his swing locked in,” DeFrancesco said. “But he will have his time.”

Drafted as a shortstop, Carter has played five positions defensively. He followed his 39-home run season in 2008 with a 28-homer campaign between Double-A and Triple-A last season.

“Whenever my time is, I’ll get up there,” he said.

In the meantime, DeFrancesco is focusing on preparing Carter to be better defensively.

“His bat is going to come in here and play real quick,” he said. “But his defense is improving and he has to learn how to become an everyday first baseman. I think that will work itself out over the summer.”

Carter added a single on the night, moving his average to .283 with three home runs and 10 runs batted in on the season.

Among his fans in attendance were former teammates from the 2005 Sierra Vista championship team.

“We all still talk,” Carter said. “We had a real good team that year. There were a lot of seniors and I think we had the same team as the year before. A lot of them are coming, so I want to do good.”

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