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Blackmon, McHugh sign with MLB teams

It hasn't taken long for some local players taken in last week's Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft to get started with their respective professional careers.

Two players - former North Gwinnett and Georgia Tech outfielder Charlie Blackmon and former Providence and Berry College pitcher Collin McHugh - have already signed professional contracts and will be joining their new clubs within the next few days.

Meanwhile, former Dacula and College of Charleston third baseman Jeremie Tice said Monday he is close to signing, and could come to terms on his first contract as soon as today.

Blackmon was the highest Gwinnett player selected after being taken by the Colorado Rockies with the 72nd overall pick in the second round Thursday.

The 6-foot-3, 201-pound former North standout burst upon the scene by hitting .396, with eight home runs, 45 RBIs, 25 stolen bases and 68 runs scored in leading Georgia Tech to an NCAA Regional berth this season after starting his college career as a pitcher at Young Harris and his first season at Tech.

Less than a year after he switched back to being a position player, Blackmon will begin a pro career later this week when he joins the Tri-City Dust Devils of the Class A (short season) Northwest League after agreeing to terms with Colorado on Sunday.

"I am a little surprised everything worked out so smoothly," said Blackmon, who declined to discuss contract terms. "I'm very excited. To start playing pro ball less than a year (after the position switch) - it's crazy."

McHugh, who went 2-4 with a 4.67 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 612/3 innings for Berry this spring, also reached terms with the team that drafted him, signing a contract with the New York Mets after being selected in the 18th round Friday.

"We came to terms with the Mets pretty quickly," the 6-1 right-hander said Monday. "My agent (C.J. Stewart) did a great job with that, and now I'm ready to go play."

McHugh leaves today for a three-day extended spring training stay at the Mets' facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., before joining the Kingsport (Tenn.) Mets of the rookie Appalachian League later this week.

While Tice has not yet signed his first pro contract, he is confident he will soon join Blackmon and McHugh in the pro ranks, perhaps as soon as today.

That could allow him to join the Mahoning Valley Scrappers - Cleveland Indians' affiliate in the Class A (short season) New York Penn League - before the weekend.

"We're still negotiating a few things," said Tice, who was selected by the Indians in the sixth round late Thursday. "There are certain things in the contract we still have to go over, but everything else is pretty much done.

"I'm pretty excited about the opportunity. ... Anytime you can skip rookie ball, it's pretty exciting."

Gwinnett's other players taken in last week's draft remain on hold with their futures for now.

Former Wesleyan pitcher Stephen Dodson (10th round, Colorado Rockies) and current Georgia teammate and Parkview alum Nathan Moreau (11th round, Baltimore Orioles) have more pressing matters at hand right now with the Bulldogs set to head off to the College World Series this week.

Meanwhile, recent Parkview graduates Zach Cone (third supplemental round, Los Angeles Angels) and Bronson Gagner (43rd round, Cincinnati Reds) could not be reached for comment as of press time Monday. However, Cone said shortly after being picked he expected to meet with officials from the Angels sometime this week.

Wesleyan pitcher Grayson Garvin was taken by the Houston Astros in the 45th round, but said last week he was planning to attend Vanderbilt instead of turning pro for now.