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Etowah’s Drew Waters signed by Braves and ‘ready to get at it’

Etowah High’s Drew Waters said he didn’t think the Braves would select him during the draft Monday. Then, as the team’s second-round pick approached, he got a call from Braves general manager John Coppolella.

“I was like, ‘OK, I want to play for the Atlanta Braves,’” Waters said. “So I’m excited.”

The Braves signed Waters to a contract that includes a $1.5 million bonus. The switch-hitting outfielder was at SunTrust Park on Saturday to tour his possible future home ballpark, meet some current Braves players and speak to media. Waters said he plans to report Thursday to the Braves’ Gulf Coast League.

Waters, 18, committed to play for the University of Georgia before the Braves drafted him. His stock soared after a big senior season for Etowah that culminated with the team’s first state championship and the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year award for Waters. He also was selected the AJC’s high school baseball player of the year.

The Braves drafted Waters with the No. 41 overall pick.

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“Throughout my offseason I knew I needed to get stronger, I knew I needed to get faster and continue to work on my swing because you can’t ever be the ‘perfect hitter,’” Waters said. “I did a lot of work in the weight room, and I did a lot of work in the batting cage. I think it showed.”

During his senior season Waters hit .510 (53-for-104) with 15 home runs, 13 doubles and four triples. Baseball America ranked Waters as the No. 35 prospect in the draft and, on its “best tools” list, rated Waters as the second-best hitter among high school prospects.

Most high draft picks eventually get at least a chance to play in the big leagues, but a small percentage of them stay there.

“Obviously one of my goals was to be a draft pick, but that’s not my overall goal,” Waters said. “My overall goal is to play in the big leagues. I know I have a lot of work to do, and I’m ready to get at it.”

Waters said he started switch-hitting when he was just four years old at the encouragement of his father, Mitch. Earlier in the week Waters met ex-Braves slugger Chipper Jones, who is one of the best switch hitters in MLB history.

“I got to pick his brain about switch hitting,” Waters said. “It was a cool opportunity.”

Mitch Waters played football at Georgia Tech. Drew Waters, who is 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, said he gave up football when he got to high school.

“My dad never pushed me to play football because it’s a dangerous sport and, honestly, my future was in baseball,” Waters said.

The Braves signed Waters for slightly less than the “slot” value for the 41st pick under baseball’s rules. The Braves signed Vanderbilt pitcher Kyle Wright, their first-round pick, to a record $7 million bonus.

The Braves now have about $1.35 million remaining of their $9.88 allotment to sign their other picks from the first 10 rounds of the draft. The Braves can spend about $10 million without incurring a penalty.

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