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12 Gwinnett products taken by MLB teams

Photo by Josh Little

Photo by Josh Little

Three more current or former Gwinnett County high school players were selected on the final day of the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Wednesday.

Those final selections brought this year's local draft class up to 12, making it the largest Gwinnett class ever.

"It's definitely exciting," said Norcross grad and now Georgia relief pitcher Tyler Maloof, who was the first local player taken Wednesday with the 1,028th overall pick in the 34th round by the Cleveland Indians.

For Maloof, Wednesday was the capper for an extraordinary year after being limited to just three appearances over the last previous three seasons -- in part due to a redshirt season last year and missing much of his senior season at Norcross with an injury.

This year, he emerged as Georgia's closer out of the bullpen, saving 18 games for the Bulldogs, which is currently tied for the top figure among all Division I teams nationwide.

"It's something to be proud of, especially after not playing much the last three years," Maloof said. "It's something to build on for the future."

Maloof wasn't the only Norcross grad taken Wednesday, as former Blue Devil teammate Richard Pirkle was taken just 40 picks later.

The catcher was selected with the 1,068th pick in the 35th round by the Colorado Rockies after hitting .301 with a team-best 12 home runs and 37 RBIs for Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville this spring.

While Norcross (Maloof and Pirkle) and Wesleyan (Grayson Garvin and James Ramsey) each had two representatives taken in this year's draft, Brookwood had the most, with recently graduated Broncos Trey Martin and Nick Moore joining 2007 graduate Troy Snitker in being selected Tuesday.

Recent South Gwinnett grad Kent Rollins, who is scheduled to attend the United States Air Force Academy and play both football and baseball in the fall, was the final Gwinnett selection in this year's draft, taken with the 1,463rd pick in the 48th round by the San Diego Padres.

This year's draft has brought out a lot of excitement and emotions from those taken, but perhaps none more than the first local player to be chosen.

Parkview grad and Georgia centerfielder Zach Cone learned of being selected by the Texas Rangers with the 37th overall pick in the Compensatory A round as the Bulldogs were waiting for a connecting flight home from their trip to an NCAA Regional tournament in Corvallis, Ore., late Monday.

"We were delayed and flew into Iowa, and I found out right before we took off," Cone said Wednesday. "I was very surprised (to be selected so early) and very excited. ... Right now, I'm just going to take some time with my family to enjoy it and kind of let it sink in."

But as much as his own selection means to him, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior was even more thrilled Wednesday, when the same Rangers organization that chose him used their 33rd-round pick to select fellow Georgia outfielder Johnathan Taylor.

Taylor continues to recover after being partially paralyzed from injuries suffered in a collision with Cone while chasing after a fly ball earlier this season.

And Cone was touched by the Rangers' gesture toward his teammate and friend.

"That was awesome," Cone said of Taylor's selection. "It means a lot to both of us. It's been tough because (Taylor) is one of my best friends. Nobody should have to go through that."