Three former Redan High School baseball players are on major league rosters and four more could be beginning their journey in professional baseball in the next few weeks.
“It feels good to keep Redan’s legacy going,” said former Raider shortstop Deion Williams, who graduated from the school earlier this month. “Redan always has been big about getting players to the next level, whether it’s college or the minors or the major leagues.”
Williams was set to sign by June 15 with the Washington Nationals after being drafted by the club in the 16th round as the No. 487 overall pick. Williams said he expects to be assigned to Melbourne (Fla.), the Nationals’ Rookie League affiliate in the Gulf Coast League, where the season begins June 20.
“I’ve been waiting for this for 18 years,” Williams said. “I’m not nervous about it. I hope to be able to make baseball an even bigger part of my life than it was before.”
Williams was one of five former high school players from DeKalb County who were drafted. Former Redan players Patrick Smith and Shawn Payne also were chosen, along with ex-Dunwoody player Chris Epps and former Decatur standout Trumon Jefferson.
Williams was rated the No. 5 high school prospect in Georgia before the season and batted .350 with 20 RBIs at Redan in 2011.
“Deion is one of those kids who was raised to be a baseball player,” Redan coach Marvin Pruitt said. “He’s got the lineage. His dad played in the minors and his granddad played with the Boston Red Sox.”
Williams’ father got the call from a Nationals’ scout and relayed the message to his son.
“I don’t have words for it,” Williams said of his reaction to the phone call. “I was very excited but at the same time it was expected.”
Smith, a freshman at Middle Georgia College, was the first ex-Redan player to be taken in the 2011 MLB Draft. The outfielder was chosen by Detroit in the 14th round as the No. 437 pick. Smith was an integral part of Redan’s 2010 Class AAAAA playoff run to the Final Four.
Smith was drafted by the Boston Red Sox as the 1,313th pick a year ago as a graduating senior from Redan. He moved up in this year’s draft nearly 900 spots after batting .303 with 48 RBIs, 13 doubles and 10 stolen bases in 12 attempts at Middle Georgia in 2011.
Payne, a senior center fielder at Georgia Southern, was the third Redan grad to get the call in the 2011 MLB Draft as the defending world champion San Francisco Giants picked him up in the 35th round with the 1,077th pick overall.
Payne finished the 2011 season at Georgia Southern batting .314 with 39 RBIs and six homers. He hit .494 in four years at Redan.
“It’s great news,” Pruitt said of the Raider players chosen in the draft. “I feel blessed to have that many players taken.”
Pruitt said a fourth ex-Raider, Neiko Johnson who just finished his senior season at the University of Kentucky, may sign a contract soon.
“He had a workout with the Houston Astros and did extremely well,” Pruitt said. “We’ll know something for sure probably within the next few weeks.”
Epps, an outfielder/pitcher with Clemson University, was taken by the Houston Astros in the 45th round as the No. 1,360 pick overall. At Clemson in 2011, Epps hit .292 with 42 RBIs, 10 home runs and was 11 of 14 in stolen base attempts.
Jefferson, who graduated from Decatur this year, was drafted in the 39th round by the Texas Rangers. Jefferson batted .419 as a senior and led the Bulldogs in hits and RBIs.
Pruitt is no stranger to developing players who find success at the next level. Three former Redan players currently are on major league rosters. Brandon Phillips is a 10-year major league veteran and is the starting shortstop with the Cincinnati Reds. Domonic Brown is with the Philadelphia Phillies and Chris Nelson was called up earlier this season with the Colorado Rockies.
“It’s a great feeling,” Pruitt said. “We just hope they give back to the community so someone else can go and follow in their footsteps.”