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Brian Buscher chucks a grounder to first during his playing days at USC.
Brian Buscher chucks a grounder to first during his playing days at USC.

Brian Buscher found himself standing on the steps of the visitor’s dugout at Fenway Park on Tuesday afternoon.

"I'm looking at the Green Monster right now," the former USC standout said. "I got to go inside the scoreboard yesterday. That was pretty cool."

Pretty cool: That pretty much sums up the demeanor of one of the best hitters to pass through Sarge Frye Field. It is an attitude that has served Buscher well on his circuitous journey to the Minnesota Twins' lineup after years of bouncing around various minor league outposts.

"I think for a guy in his position, he's extremely grounded," USC coach Ray Tanner said. "(He is) not much different as a person between college ball and the big leagues. He's very grateful for every day ... and very thoughtful."

Buscher was called up to the Twins this season when a spate of injuries savaged the team's roster. He has settled in as the left-handed half of a platoon at third base. After having Tuesday off, Buscher saw his five-game hitting streak end Wednesday.

He had Thursday off as well, but don't let that be any reflection on his worth to the Twins. In 21 games, he has had two hitting streaks of at least five games, giving him a .306 batting average.

On June 24, Buscher delivered a television highlight by ripping a game-winning home run off vaunted San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman.

Tanner couldn't get enough of it.

"On the Twins' Web site, they have the highlights," he said. "I watched that about 25 times. I watched the pitch and swing and watched him, the way he carried himself and the way he went back to the dugout. He was a true professional."

The last time most USC fans saw Buscher in person was at the 2003 College World Series. In his final game as a Gamecock, Buscher had a single, two doubles and a home run in a 13-6 loss to Stanford.

His .393 batting average that season led the SEC, and his 106 hits were the second-most in team history. Originally an outfielder, Buscher made a smooth transition to third base while in Columbia.

One of the lasting images of Buscher's career in Tanner's memory came a week before that year's College World Series. He and several of his players, including Buscher, were sitting in his office following the first-year player draft.

After being selected in the 50th round as a high school senior and again as a junior-college freshman, Buscher was stunned when the San Francisco Giants nabbed him in the third round.

"It really took him aback," Tanner said with a laugh. "We had to tell him, 'Yeah, that's you.'

Minnesota plucked Buscher out of the Giants' farm system during the Rule 5 draft in 2006, and he made his major league debut the following summer. Not one to take anything for granted, Buscher said he is enjoying every minute of Minnesota's unlikely run at the American League Central title. The Twins were 2½ games behind the Chicago White Sox entering Thursday.

"We're getting great pitching, and our defense is making the plays when we need to," he said. "And we're getting a lot of timely hits."

When he gets a chance, he reminisces about his USC days with former Gamecock and current Twins teammate Adam Everett, whose injury cleared a roster spot for Buscher. He also marvels at Winthrop product Kevin Slowey's breakout season.

"Right now, I don't know if I could hit him. He's throwing pretty good," Buscher said.

Buscher used his first big-league paycheck to put down a payment on a house in Columbia. When he is in town, he said he will work out with the Gamecocks and drive past the new stadium, which was oft-rumored but never built during his college days.

Tanner is used to having Buscher around.

"You'd never know it when he comes back to town," Tanner said. "Just one day, he'll show up and say, 'Hey, whatcha guys doing.'

"What's happening for him right now just couldn't happen to a better guy. I'm so proud of him."

AROUND THE HORN

Tracking other South Carolina players in the majors and minors:

 Former Gamecock Steven Pearce is back in the big leagues after shredding Triple-A pitching in the Pittsburgh Pirates system. Though he was hitting .259 at Indianapolis, Pearce had 23 doubles and 11 home runs. He delivered a pinch-hit double in an 11-6 loss against Milwaukee on July 6.

 Chapin's DeWayne Wise is experiencing a career renaissance with the Chicago White Sox. In receiving his most significant playing time since 2004, Wise entered Thursday's game at Kansas City with a .350 average in 40 at-bats.

 Tom Gordon's breakdown in Philadelphia opened the door for ex-Charleston Southern left-hander R.J. Swindle. He made his debut July 7, giving up two runs in three innings. He is the first Buccaneers player to reach the majors.

 College of Charleston standout Brett Gardner delivered the game-winning hit for the Yankees on July 6 against Boston.

 Former Wofford masher Brandon Waring was named one of the best minor league players of the season's first half by Baseball America. The Cincinnati farmhand has 15 doubles and 15 home runs with Dayton of the Class A Midwest League.

Reach Obley at (803) 771-8473.

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