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Braves keep it local in 2007 MLB draft
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    ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves continued to lean on local talent when they made Henry County High School outfielder Jason Heyward their first-round pick in Thursday’s amateur baseball draft.

    The Braves took Heyward, a power hitter, with the 14th pick of the first round. Heyward (6-5, 230) has signed with UCLA, but he said a college career is no longer an option.

    ‘‘After the 13th pick when I saw my name wasn’t called, I said ’Atlanta Braves,’’’ Heyward said during his visit to Turner Field Thursday. ‘‘That’s all I thought of.’’

    Heyward said being drafted by his home-state team ‘‘is a dream come true.’’

    Heyward, accompanied by his father, Eugene Heyward Jr. and other family members, met several players and manager Bobby Cox during batting practice.

    Heyward was listed at 6-foot-4 but said he has grown another inch. He had a believer in Cox.

    ‘‘I knew he was big, just hearing a little about him, but I didn’t know he was that big,’’ Cox said.

    Heyward, a left-handed hitter, hit .520 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs as a senior at Henry County. He said he played center field and right field his last two seasons.

    The Braves’ recent draft picks include six home-state players currently on the major league roster: outfielder Jeff Francoeur, Parkview High; catcher Brian McCann, Duluth High; and pitchers Chuck James, Mableton High; Blaine Boyer, Walton High; Kyle Davies, Stockbridge High, and Macay McBride, Screven County High.

    The Braves have another home-state player, outfielder Willie Harris of Cairo, who was drafted by Baltimore in 1999.

    Cox said the move toward local players is good for the team.

    ‘‘They can play,’’ Cox said. ‘‘Bring them on. I think it’s great for our fans to have them right here, coming through our organization.’’

    Heyward said he had previously met some of the local players.

    ‘‘That’s a good thing to be a part of,’’ Heyward said. ‘‘That’s a great feeling.’’

    Heyward said he hoped to start his professional career ‘‘as soon as possible.’’

    In last year’s draft, the Braves selected four in-state players on the first day: Georgia Southern right-handed pitcher Dustin Evans, two pitchers from Georgia Tech — Lee Hyde, a left-hander, and right-hander Tim Gustafson — and University of Georgia first baseman Josh Morris.

    Following their first-round pick — the team’s highest selection since 1991 — the Braves chose another high school player, third baseman Jonathan Gilmore (6-3, 190) of Iowa City, Iowa, with the 33rd pick in the supplemental round.