Lucas Sims can tell you plenty about his Atlanta Braves memories. He can recall his first game at Turner Field, when he was 4 years old and his parents let him run the base path by the Coke bottle in the left field upper deck.
Fast-forward 14 years, and he can also tell you exactly where he was sitting for a game last week, when the Braves played the Nationals on May 27.
"Section 217, first base side," he said without hesitation.
Sims said he was sitting with his buddy from Brookwood High School in Gwinnett County.
On that picture-perfect night for baseball, the two young men gazed out at the brilliant green of the grass and dared to ponder the big question.
"He looks over at me and says, ‘What if you got to play here one day?' We just kind of thought about it and laughed," said Sims.
Monday night, Sims was laughing again.
He may have also been yelling, screaming, perhaps even crying a little bit with his parents and friends. That little joke and chuckle with his buddy in the stands, eight days earlier, had become a tangible, reachable reality.
The Atlanta Braves had chosen Sims as their first pick in the 2012 Major League Baseball draft.
Add it to the list of his vivid Braves memories.
"This is a dream come true, I've been a Braves fan all my life," said Sims. "To have an opportunity to play for the Atlanta Braves, there's an unbelievable amount of emotions running through me right now."
In Sims, the Braves again farmed the fertile baseball ground of Gwinnett County, from whence they picked Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann in the 2002 draft. Those were position players. Sims is a pitcher, and a self-admitted student of the John Smoltz school of pitching.
Smoltz is set to be inducted into the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame on June 8.
"Pretty much my whole pitching career I've looked up to John Smoltz," said Sims. "I'd be honored to be mentioned in the same breath as him. I always thought his stuff was so sick."
Sims has, without question, a long road in front of him in the minor leagues to reach the Atlanta ball club. But the Braves have confidence that the 6'2" tall, 195-pound right-hander's 94 mph fastball will only get stronger as he matures, and that he'll be able to further develop the curveball and change-up pitches in his arsenal.
Sims hopes he'll be able to advance through the Braves' farm system as a starting pitcher.
"I've always thought of myself as a starter, but I'm open to whatever a team needs. I'm all about winning, too."
The Braves believe they're getting a true athlete with Sims. He played shortstop regularly in high school whenever he wasn't pitching.
Sims previously committed to play baseball at Clemson University. However, because he was drafted in the first round by Atlanta, he said he plans to sign with the Braves and forego a college career so that he can begin his trek through the minor leagues.
"Growing up a Braves fan, and watching some of the hometown guys come up, watching them on TV... now I'm part of the organization, it's a dream come true," Sims said.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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