A pair of former Gwinnett standouts are ready to begin their minor league baseball experience.
North Gwinnett grad Blake Wood signed with the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night and fellow draft pick Joey Side, a South Gwinnett grad, signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.
Wood, a third-round pick in the June 6 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, will report to Idaho Falls on July 1 for a short season with the Chukars, the Royals' rookie league club. It's a long way to travel, but Wood pitched two summers ago in Alaska so this trip doesn't seem so bad.
Especially with the contract signing issue out of the way. The right-handed pitcher, who helped Georgia Tech to this year's College World Series, said he signed for "slot money," but declined to disclose the details of his signing bonus. He was the 77th pick overall and last year's No. 77 got a $460,000 signing bonus.
Wood said he plans to buy a few necessities for the road - a new laptop and a new car to replace his worn-out, 1996 Ford Explorer - with his bonus but is equally excited about getting his pro career going.
"I've been waiting for this day for a long time," Wood said. "To finally (sign) is a great feeling. It's a sigh of relief. Now I get to play pro baseball."
Side, also a College World Series participant this year with Georgia, agreed to terms with the Diamondbacks on Friday. Like Wood, he had to wait until his team was eliminated from the CWS before signing.
The outfielder doesn't get much of a break as he reports today to the Class A Yakima Bears (Wash.). Side was a sixth-round choice in the draft at No. 177 overall, a spot that meant a $145,000 signing bonus to last year's pick at that spot.
Gustafson plans to pitch
in Cape Cod League
Georgia Tech pitcher and Parkview grad Tim Gustafson, a ninth-round pick of the Atlanta Braves in June, still plans to pitch this summer in the Cape Cod League.
The right-hander was projected to go between the first and third rounds in the draft, but bicep tendinitis and shoulder impingement ended his junior season on March 25. It also affected his draft status, dropping him into the ninth round.
He said the goal of pitching in the Cape Cod League, where he also played last summer, is proving to himself, to the Braves and to others that he's still the same pitcher as before the minor arm injury.
"Ideally I would sign with the Braves (later this summer)," Gustafson said. "But school-wise, I've set myself up well whether I come back this year or come back the next couple of years after going on the road (in minor league baseball). If things don't work out (with signing this year), I'll graduate and come back and do this (draft process) again next year."