With the Atlanta Braves nearing spring training, former Rome Brave Drew Waters looked back on his time in Rome as he makes his way up in the organization.
One of Atlanta’s top prospects, the outfielder recently got a chance to be back in town Monday and meet some fans at the Rome Braves’ annual Hot Stove Gathering.
Waters will join several other prospects next month at spring training, along with a group of fellow former Rome players.
Waters has moved quickly through the Braves’ organization, spending the 2019 season with AA Mississippi and AAA Gwinnett after his first full season of pro ball in 2018 with Rome.
“It’s been a great experience, so far,” Waters said. “You don’t really know what to expect getting drafted out of high school. It was a little intimidating at first, but I got to spend my first full season here in Rome, and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to start my career.
“I thought from the front office all the way down to the clubhouse, they did a great job, not only with me, but with the entire team. As you go up in the organization, it only gets better.”
Waters, who was drafted by the Braves after completing his high school career at Etowah in Woodstock, finished the 2019 season with a .305 batting average, 163 hits, seven home runs and 52 RBIs.
Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker said they’re pushing up-and-coming players through quickly to make sure they get the opportunities they need to develop their talent.
“We’ve seen a lot of them,” Snitker said of the influx of young players on the Major League squad. “We’re rushing them through at record speeds and giving guys opportunities. They need experience. That’s it. These guys just need to continue to play baseball, and we feel really good about a lot of the players we have in our system.”
Waters will be joined by former Rome players Ian Anderson, Kurt Hoekstra, Shea Langeliers, Braden Shewmake and Trey Harris as non-roster invitees to spring training at the Braves’ new facility in North Port, Florida.
Atlanta Braves General Manager of Player Development Ben Sestanovich emphasized that decisions will be made to push players when they reach a point where they need to be challenged.
“The players will tell you,” Sestanovich said. “When guys are performing well, are ready for a new challenge and our staff feels a player is ready to be pushed, we’ll get together and make a decision to promote a player.”
Atlanta opens the season March 26 on the road against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Their home opener will be April 3 against the Miami Marlins. The Rome Braves open the season at State Mutual Stadium on April 9 against the Hagerstown Suns.