ALL-USA watch: Outfielder Drew Waters helps Etowah reach state finals

Photo: Perfect Game Baseball

ALL-USA watch: Outfielder Drew Waters helps Etowah reach state finals

ALL-USA Watch

ALL-USA watch: Outfielder Drew Waters helps Etowah reach state finals

Etowah (Woodstock, Ga.) center fielder Drew Waters has gone from being a speedy, high-average switch-hitter with great potential to a player who’s likely to go high in Major League Baseball’s June amateur draft.

As a junior, Waters hit .470 with a homer, 14 RBI and 18 stolen bases. This season, the senior has had a power surge, leading the Eagles with 13 homers in 87 at-bats while hitting .494 with 35 RBI and 14 stolen bases.

“I think he made a big jump from last year to this year,” Etowah baseball coach Greg Robinson said. “He only had one jack last year. He’s put on about 20 pounds of muscle. He always had tremendous hands, but he’s gotten really strong and he’s gotten very patient. He knows which pitches he can handle and he’s just not missing.”

The result is a hitter that teams avoid facing. Last week, in a state semifinal with Mill Creek (Hoschton),  the Hawks walked Waters his first two times up and he wound up scoring both times. The third time up, Mill Creek’s Jay Pendley threw one strike to him and Waters sent it over the fence in left-center for a homer and the Eagles went on to win, 5-3. He also walked in his last plate appearance of the day.

“We’ve got one guy who protects him a little bit, but for the most part, he’s had to be selective,”Robinson said. “He has as many extra-base hits as he does singles. … He’s a five-tool player who’s going to go in the first round.”

Waters, who has been walked 29 times this season, said he’s learned to wait for his pitch.

“I’ve had to learn to be patient and take my walks,” Waters said. “Early in the season, I struggled with all the walks. Now, I know that I can take a walk and turn it into a triple if I steal second and third. It’s been frustrating, but at this point in the season, I wouldn’t pitch to me either. I take what I get and when I do get a pitch across the plate, I try to do something with it.”

His senior project was also connected to baseball. He organized a November charity home-run derby, “Crushin’ for Carson,” to benefit 9-year-old youth baseball player Carson Rozsman, who is battling an inoperable brain tumor. The derby was attended by former Major League All-Star pitcher Tom Glavine. The Derby’s winner was minor leaguer Curtis Terry and several other minor league players competed, including former ALL-USA baseball player Carter Kieboom.

Waters’ father, Mitch, played football at Georgia Tech. Drew’s older sister Caroline played soccer at Georgia and his older brother Zach, who was an All-County pitcher and catcher at Etowah, played baseball at East Tennessee State and for a season at Georgia.

“I fell in love with baseball, being around it with my brother and playing it all the time,” Waters said. “He’s one of the huge reasons for my success, especially right now. He was at college when I first started high school and he would push me, saying, ‘Hey, you need to start doing this because someone else is.’  He really helped me with my work ethic and once I developed that work ethic, I didn’t get rid of it.”

Waters played lots of elite travel ball over the summer, which helped him with his confidence, but it also made it hard for him to put on weight. At the end of the summer season, he was 6-2 and 166 pounds. Since then, he began hitting the weights and came into this season around 190.

“This off-season, I worked on getting stronger and making my swing crisp and taking out all the things that could make it not smooth,” Waters said. “This season showed all the work I put in during the off-season.”

In doing so, he’s helped Etowah, which finished fourth in the six-team Region 4-AAAAAAA, surprised a lot of people in the state tournament. Ironically, the team the Eagles face in the state championship series beginning Wednesday is Woodstock, a team two miles away that finished third in the region.

“If we lose, once I get drafted, I’ll be out of Woodstock very fast,” Waters said, semi-jokingly. “If we lose to them in the state championship, they will never let me forget it.”

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