June 10, 2010 9:29:00 AM
William Beckwith is close to realizing a dream.
The former West Lowndes High School baseball standout is leaning toward signing with his favorite team after the Atlanta Braves selected him Tuesday in the 21st round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
"It felt real good," said Beckwith, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound power-hitting first baseman from Wallace-Dothan (Ala.) Community College. "I was real excited to get that phone call from the Atlanta Braves. I knew all along that was the team that was probably going to get me because I had been in contact with them during the season."
Beckwith was informed of his selection by Brian Bridges, who is the Braves'' area supervisor for Alabama, North Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. He said Bridges said Braves want him to report to Orlando, Fla., to begin his professional career with their rookie league team.
The selection is the second time Beckwith has been drafted. The Kansas City Royals drafted him in the 46th round in 2008.
Beckwith has signed a scholarship to play at the University of West Florida, but he''s contemplating signing with the Braves. Two years ago, he had a similar decision to make.
"I''ve decided I''m probably going to take it and start my career and get ahead in the game," Beckwith said. "Hopefully I can make it up to the major leagues in a couple of years.
"The Atlanta Braves have always been an organization I wanted to play for. I want to play for the Atlanta Braves because if I do play professionally one day all my family and people I know, like old coaches, won''t have to travel too far to Atlanta to watch me play."
Beckwith hit .424 with 14 home runs and 61 RBIs in 48 games for Wallace-Dothan this season. He transferred to Wallace-Dothan after playing his freshman season at Meridian C.C., where he hit .388 with four home runs and 32 RBIs.
Beckwith is the nephew of Braves'' minor league pitching coordinator Kent Willis (a graduate of former Lee High School in Columbus), and it wasn''t hard for him to pick a favorite team.
"My uncle used to coach in the minor leagues for the Mississippi Braves, so I''ve always had contact with people in the Braves'' organization," Beckwith said. "They''re my favorite team. When they took me I decided I''ll probably go ahead and take it."
Beckwith hit .517 with four home runs and 32 RBIs to lead West Lowndes to a 15-6 record and the second round of the Class A state playoffs as a senior.