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Braves draft local standout

By Doug Gorman

Stockbridge resident Trae Wiggins learned a long time ago not to let adversity get him down.

That's why the life-long baseball fan didn't stop playing the game he loves just because he was cut from the Stockbridge High School squad right before the start of his senior season.

With the support of his parents Johnny and Connie, the left-handed pitcher changed schools and found a spot on the Mt. Zion Academy baseball team.

For Wiggins, it was like going home. Wiggins attended Mt. Zion Academy as a junior high school student and played baseball for the school's middle school program.

When he needed a place to play after getting cut at Stockbridge, Mt. Zion Academy head coach Joe Shadowens welcomed him back.

With Shadowens' help, Wiggins also earned a tryout and eventually a spot on the Brewton Parker College team.

Jump ahead three years later, and Wiggins' hard work has been rewarded.

Monday afternoon, the hard-throwing left-handed pitcher realized his dream when he was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the seventh round of the Major League first-year player baseball draft.

"I wasn't going to tell somebody not to draft me because I wanted to play for the Braves, but I've been a Braves fan all of my life. I was really sad when they tore down Fulton County Stadium so getting drafted by the Braves makes it really special," he said. "It's a dream come true."

Shadowens was excited to learn his former player had a chance to move on to the pro level. Even after Wiggins went to college, coach and player stayed in touch.

"I think its great," said Shadowens. "When he came out his senior year, he had some control problems, but he worked on it and by the end of the season, he was blowing batters away."

When Wiggins needed someone to workout with while home from college, Shadowens stepped in, often putting on the catcher's gear to catch the Brewton Parker student's blazing fastball.

"By the time we finished, my hand was swollen," said Shadowens.

Wiggins began playing baseball when he was seven years old with is father as the coach. When he started out as a short stop, he threw right handed. After informing his father he wanted to try his hand at pitching, his father insisted he learn how to pitch with his left hand.

"I never put pressure on him," said his father Johnny. "I asked him every summer if he wanted to play. If he wanted to go fishing instead of play baseball, that would have been fine."

Brewton Parker head coach Chad Parker isn't surprised his former player is getting the chance to play in the pros.

"He's got a great pitching body and a lose arm," said Parker. "He has unlimited potential. I think we could see him in the big leagues."

Johnny Wiggins said Brewton Parker was a perfect fit for his son to not only play baseball, but build on his faith as a devout Christian.

"We feel very pleased," said Johnny. "Trae is going to have a chance to play baseball, but he is going to get a chance to witness too."

Connie Wiggins credits Parker and the coaches at Brewton Parker for helping her son get drafted.

"We always knew Trae had the talent to play, but they really helped him develop it," she said. "I'm not so sure, other coaches would have been able to do that."

Wiggins could someday reunite with former Stockbridge team Kyle Davis, who was drafted out of high school by the Braves.

"I know Kyle has been playing in the minor leagues with the Braves for awhile and is moving on up, but it is just neat to know I'll have a chance to be a part of a program like this."

Once Wiggins signs his contract with the Braves, he is expected to leave for the Braves' rookie team in Orlando by the end of the weeek.