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Twins take Laird in 31st round

By Doug Gorman

The only season Jason Laird pitched for the Henry County varsity baseball team was during his senior year.

Apparently, professional baseball scouts didn't need any more time to evaluate his talents.

Tuesday afternoon in the second day of Major League Baseball's first-year player draft, the Minnesota Twins selected the local right-handed pitcher with the biting curveball and smoking fastball in the 31st round.

"The upstart with Jason is he is 6-3, 155-pounds," said Henry County head coach Chuck Campbell. "He can hit 90 miles an hour on the radar gun. I'm not surprise the Twins selected him. I kept receiving e-mails from them, and they were showing a lot of interest."

Laird was the third player from Henry County selected in this year's draft. The Henry County graduate was picked 931 overall.

On Monday, former Mt. Zion Academy pitcher and Brewton Parker College standout Trae Wiggins was picked in the seventh round by the Atlanta Braves, while the Boston Red Sox picked Michael Rozier in the 12th round.

Wiggins and Rozier are both left-handed pitchers.

Laird was picked by the Twins under baseball's draft and follow rule which will still allow him to play baseball at Gulf Coast Junior College in Florida next year.

The Twins can then sign Laird before next year's draft, or he is eligible to go back into the 2005 selection process and be drafted again by any other team.

The draft and follow rule gives Laird some security.

"I'll have a chance to go to college and work on my game in college," said Laird who is in New York playing in a summer wooden bat league.

Laird burst on the Henry County baseball scene his sophomore season as a member of the Warhawks' junior varsity team, overpowering batters with a collection of pitchers.

An injury kept Laird from pitching for the Warhawks' varsity during his junior season.

However this past season, Laird bounced back and made the most of his only season of varsity action.

"We were a little worried about how he would respond after getting hurt," said Campbell. "He had never been hurt before, so it was something new to him."

Laird and Rozier became the backbone of a solid pitching staff as the Warhawks spent part of the season ranked No.-1 in the Class AAAAA poll.

The Warhawks, who won the Region 4-AAAAA title, made it to the second round of the Class AAAAA tournament before losing to state-runner up East Coweta.

"East Coweta was a very good baseball team," Laird said. "I have pitched against some good competition last year, and that got me ready to pitch this summer in this league. There are some really good players here in the northeast."

Although Laird is out of town, there was plenty of celebrating from his Hampton home.

"We are so proud of him," said his mother Carolyn Laird. "To get drafted out of high school, especially after getting hurt his junior year, is really exciting."

As for his time in New York, Laird calls it a valuable experience.

"I love playing baseball," Laird said. "I could be home doing other things, but I think this will help me down the line. I hope to be playing baseball for many more years."