Mariners call for Ward on final day
by Carlton D. White
cwhite@mdjonline.com
June 08, 2014 04:00 AM | 2091 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Though he still has one more year of eligibility at Georgia, former Lassiter standout Nelson Ward appears ready to sign with the Mariners, who drafted him in the 12th round Saturday.
<BR>UGA Sports Communications
Though he still has one more year of eligibility at Georgia, former Lassiter standout Nelson Ward appears ready to sign with the Mariners, who drafted him in the 12th round Saturday.
UGA Sports Communications
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Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft concluded Saturday with four more local players selected.

Former Lassiter infielder Nelson Ward was chosen in the 12th round by the Seattle Mariners, while Sprayberry left-hander McKenzie Mills was picked in the 18th round by the Washington Nationals.

Kennesaw State teammates Justin McCalvin and James Connell were also chosen. The Tampa Bay Rays selected McCalvin in the 19th round, and Connell went in the 26th round to the Los Angeles Angels.

Ward, a 5-foot-11, 173-pound shortstop, recently completed his junior season at Georgia, appearing in all 56 games and leading the Bulldogs in RBIs (34), walks (33) and multi-hit games (18). A captain, he batted .306 with 10 stolen bases.

“I was sitting on my mom’s couch, half-way napping and half-way listening to the draft, when I thought I heard the name, ‘Nelson,” Ward said. “I started listening closer, and they said my name, and I just yelled, ‘I got drafted!’

“I ran outside and told my mom and my brother that I got drafted. They didn’t believe me at first, and then they realized I was serious. We all just hollered at that point, we were so excited.”

Ward spoke with the Seattle area scout shortly after he was drafted, and the two hammered out terms to a contract that satisfied Ward and his family. He expects to go over the contract in person today and sign it.

Ward could become teammates with another Cobb County product drafted by the Mariners in the 10th round Friday, Harrison graduate Adam Martin.

“This is what I’ve always wanted since I could walk,” Ward said. “I have two older brothers, and we would play outside, and all I wanted since I’ve grown up was to become a professional baseball player.

“This is a dream come true, and I just bless the Lord for keeping me healthy and for having such a great family.

Ward also contacted his coaches at Georgia, who were thrilled to see him get the opportunity to achieve his dream, even if it means leaving the Bulldogs a year early.

“They were really excited for me,” Ward said. “They hoped I would come back, but they were excited for me either way. Everyone’s been very supportive.”

Ward spoke with several scouts at the conclusion of his junior season at Georgia, who gave him the feeling he’d get drafted this weekend. Had his plans not worked out, Ward would have spent the summer playing in the Cape Cod League.

“I spoke with a handful of scouts who were feeling me out and getting an idea of whether I was ready to play professionally,” Ward said. “I told them I was prepared. I thought I was going to get drafted (Friday), but that didn’t happen, so I figured (Saturday) could be a big day.

A four-year letterman at Lassiter, Ward won region championships with the Trojans in 2008 and ’11 and helped the team advance to the 2010 state finals.

“It’s been a nice last two years for us, with Stephen Janas getting drafted last year and Nelson this year,” Lassiter coach Scott Kelly said. “(Ward) was definitely excited to get the call. He called me about 30 minutes after talking with the scout, and you could tell this was what he wanted.

“I gave him whatever advice I could to help him make a good decision, and the rest was up to him. The whole Lassiter community is really excited for him, his future and his family.”

Mills, the ace of Sprayberry’s staff, completed a milestone weekend for the Yellow Jackets, joining teammate Michael Chavis, a first-round pick of the Boston Red Sox on Friday. Should the 6-4, 205-pound Mills was an Alabama State commitment, should he choose to not go pro.

McCalvin and Connell joined Max Pentecost and Bo Way to give Kennesaw State four in its draft class.

McCalvin, a junior, could be swayed to return to the Owls after a successful season in which he was named to the Atlantic Sun’s all-conference team as a closer. The 6-foot, 175-pounder went 5-3 with a team-best 2.21 ERA and a record 16 saves.

Connell, a fifth-year senior, served in a middle-relief role, going 7-4 with a 2.49 ERA. The 6-1, 205-pound side-armer had 66 strikeouts in 47 innings.

Depending where the Angels choose to assign him, Connell could remain in the same dugout as the Owls outfielder Bo Way, seventh-round pick of Los Angeles on Friday.

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