MARIETTA, Ga. -- It feels like the holiday season in Cobb County, Ga. And, for this year at least, over in Walton County, Ga., as well.
The 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft begins tonight with the first 73 picks being announced, and continues Friday and Saturday until all 40 rounds are completed. The draft will be watched with special interest by the folks associated with two prominent Georgia-based travel team organizations that are well-represented at this week's 14u/15u, 16u and 17u/18u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitationals.
East Cobb Baseball, based in Marietta in Cobb County, and Team Elite Baseball, based in Loganville in Walton County (with a small section overlapping into Gwinnett County), look to have a fair number of prospects selected over the next three days with the possibly of several hearing their names called tonight.
"It's an exciting time, but more importantly it's a culmination of all the kids' hard work throughout the years," East Cobb Braves 17u head coach Kevin Baldwin said Thursday from the East Cobb Baseball Complex. "They all kind of get recognized the day they sign their college scholarships (letters of intent) which is a great day for everybody; it's probably more exciting for the parents on that day because they see what kind of work they did in the classroom and outside the classroom.
"With the draft, it basically recognizes your baseball skills -- your hard work on the field and in the weight room -- so it's an exciting time, yeah."
It should be an especially exciting time for everyone associated with Team Elite Baseball. The program's top two 2013 prospects -- electric outfielder Clint Frazier from Loganville and athletic outfielder Austin Meadows from Grayson, Ga., -- are projected as early first-round selections.
Perfect Game released its final mock draft earlier today and it has Frazier going to the Cleveland Indians with the No. 5 overall pick and Meadows being selected by the New York Mets at No. 11.
"They are two tremendous players that came through the program," Team Elite 16u manager Shane Hopper said Thursday. "Both of them are hard-working guys, blue collar guys who both have extremely high skill sets. Clint, he throws 98 mph from outfield and plays like his hair's on fire. Austin is more of an easy going guy -- he never gets rattled, he never gets too high, gets too low and he's a tremendous athlete in his own right.
"Both of those guys, I've got nothing but positive things to say about either one of them."
Frazier, a Georgia signee, and Meadows, a Clemson signee, were both 2012 Perfect Game All-Americans and Frazier received the coveted Jackie Robinson Award as the 2012 Perfect Game National Player of the Year. Both stood out throughout their Perfect Game careers, particularly at the 2012 Perfect Game National Showcase.
Frazier (6-foot-1, 190) threw 98 mph from the outfield and ran a 6.42-second 60-yeard dash and Meadows (6-2, 200) showed his athleticism when he zipped-off a 6.31-second 60 at that event.
"We look for those blue collar type guys, the hard-working guys, and that's something we instill in all of our players," Hopper said. "Nothing in this game is going to be given to you; you've got to work hard for it and both those guys are very talented, but they both work extremely hard themselves."
Seven top prospects in the high school class of 2013 with ties to East Cobb Baseball are ranked in the top-81 of PG's national prospects rankings: PG All-American Travis Demeritte (No. 19), PG All-American Josh Hart (No. 30), Stephen Wrenn (No. 37), PG All-American Brian Navarreto (No. 47), Terry McClure (No. 54), Wesley Jones (No. 80) and PG All-American Kevin Davis (No. 81).
Jones, an infielder from Lithonia, Ga., who has signed with Georgia, is playing for Baldwin and the East Cobb Braves this week at the 17u/18u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational. He is projected to be selected anywhere from the fourth to 10th rounds.
"I'm going to be paying close attention to it," he said Thursday from the East Cobb Complex. "You never know what might happen. This is where I wanted to be. I'm really excited (about the future); I can't wait."
Jones biggest claim to fame so far was being named the Most Valuable Player at the 2012 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., in October after helping East Cobb Baseball to the championship. He has treasures his association with ECB.
"It's been really fun," he said. "I've played with a lot of great players -- Josh Hart, Travis (Demeritte), Terry McClure, Randolph (Gassaway) -- just being a part of that has been fun. And then winning at Jupiter, it's just been a great experience."
Davis, a right-handed pitcher from Brewton, Ala., who has signed with Auburn, spent the summer and fall of 2012 playing with the EC Braves.
“When I was coming from this small town I never really envisioned where I could be, I just knew I wanted to work hard and give myself an opportunity to essentially be the best that I could be,” he said last month. “It’s been a real fun ride doing it all.”
Baldwin emphasized that the goal of ECB isn't to necessarily get a kid drafted; it's to teach them to play the game of baseball at the highest level with the hope that will, in turn, lead to more opportunities in life, especially a shot at a college education.
"A lot of these kids, I've seen them play since they were 8 years old, and to see how they've matured as people and also as baseball players, it's truly really cool," Baldwin said.
Team Elite's Hopper said what he enjoyed most about the time Frazier and Meadows spent in the organization was the impact they had on the younger players. The two top prospects' work ethic became contagious.
"(The younger players) see these guys and they want to come in and have a chance to work side-by-side with them and understand how they go about their business," he said. "It lets the 15 and 16-year-olds know that this stuff is possible; you've got to put the hard work in and learn some things along the way, but it's definitely a possibility to see your dreams come true."
Like Baldwin, Hopper said watching the young players move up and on -- like what Frazier and Meadows accomplished -- brings the great satisfaction.
"There is nothing more that I like than seeing guys develop; our program has been solely based on development ever since we started," he said. "We work at getting guys better year in and year out, whether it be defensively, offensively (or with) pitching. ... The program is alive and it's doing well and this is going to be a gratifying moment in Team Elite history here tonight."
Major League Baseball can certainly count on achieving high ratings from at least a couple of Georgia counties during its draft coverage tonight.
"I'll be tuned in, rooting for my boys," Baldwin said with a laugh. "Hopefully they'll all go as high as possible."