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Dreams Come True

June 7, 2004
By Bill Ballew

ATLANTA--Eric Campbell wore his emotions on his shirt when the 2004 draft commenced on Monday afternoon. Donning an Atlanta Braves T-shirt just prior to the process, Campbell had his dreams become a reality shortly thereafter when his favorite team took the infielder from Owensville, Ind., with the 71st overall selection.

Campbell was in Albuquerque for a tournament on Monday and had heard former all-star first baseman Steve Garvey speak the night before about how fortunate he was to get drafted by his favorite team, the Dodgers. Not only did Campbell experience the same emotion, the infielder has drawn numerous comparisons to Garvey due to his muscular forearms, plus power potential and strong character.

"We entered the draft wanting to take the best player available and we feel we were able to do that by selecting Eric," scouting director Roy Clark said. "We believe he was the top high school power hitter in the draft and a young man we look forward to representing the Atlanta Braves."

An outstanding basketball player at Gibson Southern High, Campbell hit .506-12-33 this spring. He put on a show in front of Clark last summer when Campbell was named the co-MVP of the World Wood Bat World Senior Championships in Marietta, Ga. He also won the home run derby in the AFLAC All-Star Game while showing the most consistent raw power of any high school player on last year's summer showcase circuit.

Campbell played shortstop in high school but is expected to man third base in the minors. He possesses good athleticism and above-average instincts, even though his defensive actions are somewhat stiff. Some scouts believe he is close to reaching his physical maturity, noting his thick midsection and advanced overall development.

"He's definitely an offensive-oriented player that we feel will be an above-average infielder once he gets in the organization," Clark said.

The Braves believe they can come to terms quickly with Campbell and have him make his professional debut later this month in either the Gulf Coast League or at Danville in the Appalachian League. Clark is also hopeful that Atlanta's second pick, LSU center fielder J.C. Holt, will sign soon.

Holt is a speed-oriented player that the Braves project as a second baseman in the professional ranks. Clark compares Holt's game to that of Brett Butler, a standout leadoff hitter who started his career in the Atlanta organization. Holt has decent power and a good stroke at the plate, enabling him to win the Cape Cod League batting title last summer with a .388 average. He also was second in the Southeastern Conference in hitting this season, with .396-5-48 numbers.

WIGWAM WISPS

The Braves surrendered their first-round draft pick to the Rangers for signing free agent pitcher John Thomson during the offseason. As a result, the development-minded Braves had just one pick among top 100, taking Holt with the 101st overall selection.

Contrary to his first four drafts, Clark and the Braves took only two high school pitchers with their first 17 selections, but added immediate depth to the organization by selecting seven college hurlers.

The Braves drafted five players with Georgia roots, headed by University of Georgia catcher Clint Sammons.

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