WOODSTOCK, Ga. -- He sat by his phone, waiting. He watched MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred read name after name.
Drew Waters knew which teams were interested in him. So as the first round was wrapping up, he had a feeling he knew where he was going to get picked. Then the phone rang. It was his favorite team: the Braves.
He let his agents work out the negotiations while names in the 30s were read. Finally, his agent turned to him.
"They looked at me and they were like, 'Are you good being a Brave?' and I was like 100 percent," Waters said.
Waters was selected No. 41 overall in the MLB Draft on Monday. The Woodstock native out of Etowah High School said he was speechless in the moments after.
Mom cried. Dad and Coach were overjoyed. But for Waters, it was the realization of a dream come true already at the age of 18.
The outfielder grew up a Braves fan. He attended a game at Turner Field once a month. He wanted to follow in his brother's footsteps; he pitched for the Georgia Bulldogs.
"Turner Field had one of those little ballparks where all the little kids would go and they would play wiffle ball, so I would always go there and of course, you’d try to hit it out there. And then you’d go and watch the big kids play at Turner Field and you’re like, ‘Wow.’ That’s something I really want to do," Waters said.
Waters put up remarkable numbers his senior year. He batted over .500, had 15 home runs and 40 RBIs. He led the Eagles to a 7A state championship this year, an accomplishment that Waters is just now realizing.
"Haven’t had many like Drew that hit for a tremendous average," Etowah head coach Greg Robertson said who has now had between six and seven draft picks to his estimation. "I’d definitely put my money on Drew making it."
As the high school baseball season and postseason moved along, Waters was all over the place. He worked out with the Tigers, and twice he took batting practice with the Braves at SunTrust Park. At the park, he made a deal with those watching, including Chipper Jones.
"I kind of joked around with them during one of the workouts I did with the Braves. I told them, if I go oppo taco here over the right field fence, to the right side, you’re taking me hunting. So they knew I wanted to go hunting with Chipper, last night that was a good way of selling me to become a Brave."
Braves general manger John Coppolella, area scout Dustin Evans and Chris Lionetti told Waters on the phone that if he came to the Braves, he'd get that hunting trip.
"That alone, that’s priceless," he said.
Waters, who is already an established hitter on both sides of the plate, looks up to Jones as a switch-hitter. As they go out hunting, the pair will talk about the game's intricacies, and how Waters can pick them up and put them in his own game. He calls himself a student of the game. But that doesn't just mean on the field, but off the field, as well.
Jones has been open about his mistakes as a player, getting caught up in the fame and temptations after getting drafted to the Braves. While he had a Hall of Fame career, his issues off the field caught up with him.
Waters will get his contract soon, likely signing on Saturday. He'll get the money, and if all goes well, he'll work his way up quickly through the minors to the majors. But he said he won't change because he's too focused on his dream of playing with the Braves, becoming an All-Star, and fighting for a championship.
"You don’t change. A lot of guys, they get a big signing bonus. Or they start getting the fame. But that’s just something you have to look past. You gotta remember why you’re playing the game, what got you to the position you’re at now. I think the biggest thing is looking back at all the work I put in, throughout high school and even my early years as a kid. I don’t want it to just go away and it be a waste of time for me. I know my overall goal is to play in the big leagues," he said.
Waters also has a mentor in Fred McGriff. He met him at the Braves scout team in October, and it was McGriff who told Waters on Monday he put his job on the line to get him in the organization. Waters has a lot of people in his corner.
But really, he's there like those before him and now-- Jeff Francoeur, Nick Markakis, Tyler Flowers, Dansby Swanson-- because Georgia produces some of the best talent. The Braves also drafted Landon Hughes in the seventh round from Georgia Southern.
While Waters isn't old enough to remember the Braves' 1995 World Series, only the years of recent despair, he's encouraged about the first round pick Kyle Wright and the rest of the Braves farm system.
For Robertson, he thinks his latest draft pick is just what the Braves needed. Not to mention the powerful arms that are up-and-coming, much like Glavin, Maddux and Smoltz who powered the Braves' run in the 90s.
"I expect him to be just one of the pieces that the Braves will put together and give us a championship again," Robertson said.
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