ATHENS – Georgia senior second baseman Levi Hyams was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 19th round of the Major League Baseball draft on Wednesday. He’s the second Bulldog picked in this year’s draft by the Braves — sophomore left-hander Alex Wood was chosen by them in the second round on Tuesday — and the eighth overall, including five signees.
“I feel very fortunate to be drafted, and I was very excited when I got the news,” said Hyams, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound native of Oceanside, Calif. “The past four years have been the greatest of my life and I have no regrets. I know my stats were not as good this season, but when I came back for my senior year, it was because I wanted another year with the boys and Coach [David] Perno and to be at UGA. I felt like all those were positives, and I really appreciate everything Georgia and the program did for me, and the friendships I’ve made.”
Junior shortstop Kyle Farmer also was drafted Wednesday, going to the New Yankees in the 35th round. But he says he plans to return to Georgia for his senior season.
“Iit’s just a gut decision I made on my own,” Farmer said. “We’ve got a great senior class and we’re going to take care of business and bring some wins back to Georgia. We’re going to continue to work hard; it’s a good group of guys. I’m excited about who is all going to be on the team, and some of the freshmen have to make a decision about the draft too. I talked to [rising senior third baseman] Curt [Powell] and we know we can get better and want to have a great season for the University of Georgia.”
Two more signees were drafted Wednesday. Right-handed pitcher Sean McLaughlin of Johns Creek became the third Bulldog selected by the Braves when they took him in the 38th round. Two rounds later right-handed pitcher David Gonzales of Gainesville was taken by the Mets. High school draftees have until mid-July to decide whether to go pro.
Hyams, the 599th pick overall, hit a team-best .332 as a junior in 2011 with five home runs and 38 RBI while leading the Bulldogs to the NCAA Corvallis (Ore.) Regional Final and making the All-Tournament team. But this past year, Hyams’ average fell to .250 with two homes and 26 RBI. He ended the season on an eight-game winning streak finishes his career fifth in school history with 224 games played including 211 starts, batted .295 with 16 home runs and 101 RBI.
Hyams’ primary value as a defensive standout. Hyams set a school record for highest fielding percentage by a shortstop in 2009 at .962 and then for a second baseman (.983) in 2011. He helped Georgia establish a school record for fielding percentage the past two seasons including .978 in 2012.
Hyams said he leaves Georgia with no regrets.
“I know a lot of juniors who got drafted and wish they had their senior year because you can never get that back,” Hyams said. “I came back and I was a little stressed out about the draft. But when I got the call, I was thrilled. Actually, I was just sitting at home watching a movie, and my parents were the ones following the draft. When they heard my name, they ran downstairs to tell me.”
Hyams said the Braves told him they would send him to “mini-camp,” then he will find out his assignment. He’s looking forward to joining Wood in the organization.
“I’ve talked to Alex and we’re looking forward to going to camp together and maybe playing on the same team again,” he said. “We’re both ready to get started.”