Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Brookwood's Lucas Sims celebrates a homerun during the second game of a doubleheader against Parkview in the Class AAAAA state championship game.
Before Monday, Gwinnett County only had two former players ever selected in the first round of Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft.
But with two picks of the opening night of the 2012 draft, that number doubled.
Recent Brookwood grad Lucas Sims got this year’s local draft class off to a flying start by being selected by the hometown Atlanta Braves with the 21st overall pick in the first round.
Just two picks later at No. 23, Wesleyan grad and current Florida State outfielder James Ramsey heard his name called by the St. Louis Cardinals.
And Parkview’s Matt Olson made it three players with Gwinnett ties hearing their names called on the draft’s initial night when he was taken with the 47th overall pick in the first compensatory round by the Oakland Athletics.
For Sims, who recently helped Brookwood to a runner-up finish to archrival Parkview in the Class AAAAA state playoffs, the night was special for several reasons.
For one thing, his selection was the highest ever for a Gwinnett draftee, surpassing fellow Brookwood grad Jason Bulger, taken by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the 22nd overall pick in 2001, and Parkview grad and current Kansas City Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who was taken with the 23rd pick by the Braves a year later.
“I did not know that,” Sims said during a conference call conducted by the Braves late Monday night. “It’s a real honor. All that hard work all these years paid off.”
The fact it was the Braves — who have a history of drafting native Georgians, including Francoeur and Duluth grad Brian McCann in the first two rounds of the 2002 draft — made Monday even bigger for Sims and a gathering of family members, Brookwood coaches and friends gather at his home.
“It’s unbelievable,” Sims said minutes after the Braves’ pick was . “I thought (being taken by the Braves) was possible, but you have no idea what could go on with the draft. I’ve fantasized about playing for my hometown team. Now that it’s happened, it’s a dream come true. It’s unbelievable.”
Sims helped Brookwood (25-12) to some major heights with both his arm and his bat this spring.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-hander when 8-1 with a 1.19 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings on the mound for the Broncos this season, while hitting .358 with two home runs and 32 RBIs in 106 at bats as a pitcher and shortstop, though he is almost universally projected as a pitcher.
“We are happy to be able to draft a Georgia boy, especially one from our backyard who is a great athlete with a great arm and great make-up.” said Tony DeMacio, the Braves’ director of scouting. “We are looking forward to getting him into the fold as soon as possible. We think we have a top of the rotation type of player.”
Sims has signed a National Letter of Intent to play college baseball at Clemson, but said he will begin talking to Braves officials later this week.
While Sims looks likely to forgo a college career, Ramsey’s is just winding down at Florida State.
The 6-0, 190-pound outfielder, who could not be reached for comment, has had an outstanding senior season, hitting .385 with a team-best 13 homers, 55 RBIs, seven stolen bases and a 1.203 OPS for the Seminoles, who have advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals.
Ramsey, who hit 26 homers in his four-year career at Wesleyan and led the county with a .468 average as a junior in 2007, was drafted in the 22nd round by the Minnesota Twins a year ago, but opted to return to Florida State for his senior season.
Add in the selection of Olson by Oakland in the compensatory round and it marks the first time Gwinnett has ever had three players selected in the first round of any draft.
“It does kind of blow my mind in a way,” said the 6-5, 225-pound Olson, a first baseman/pitcher who helped the Panthers to their second straight Class AAAAA state championship by hitting .407 with 11 home runs and 52 RBIs and going 12-1 with a 1.64 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 85 1/3 innings pitched. “But it shows the kind of baseball we play here in Gwinnett County, especially with the Final Four being all-Gwinnett this year. We’re not here to mess around in Gwinnett.”
Two players with Gwinnett ties were selected in the compensatory round last year, with Parkview grad and Georgia outfielder Zach Cone being taken with pick No. 37 by the Texas Rangers and Wesleyan grad and Vanderbilt pitcher Grayson Garvin going to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at No. 59.