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Raleigh's Hamilton Beat the Odds, Selected First in Draft

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RALEIGH — Prior to the draft, baseball scouts and general managers are like poker players -- they never let you see their hand. But two weeks ago,Tampa BayGM Chuck Lamar could barely hide his enthusiasm aboutAthens High's Josh Hamilton.

Wednesday, the cards were laid on the table, and the Devil Rays made Hamilton their top pick and the number one pick in the draft.

"I am relieved, an excited streak just hit a little bit ago and the adrenaline started pumping," Hamilton said. "I have been working for it a long time, so it's finally here, and I'm glad that it is."

"I'm kind of overwhelmed to say anything right now, but he's worked hard for what he's getting," says Josh's father Tony Hamilton. "It's a great honor to be associated with somebody picked as high as he was in the draft, even though he is my son."

Hamilton and the Devil Rays hope to have him playing rookie ball by June 14, and then...

"I'm not saying it's for sure or anything, but maybe three years in the minors, play for about 15 in the majors, then [after] I retire, you have to wait five years to get in the Hall of Fame."

It is a dream held by millions of children and their parents. Thousands are good, even great, but only a few will be chosen for the Show.

Hamilton used to playLittle Leaguein West Raleigh. Now for the other ball players who are playing there, it is a field of dreams.

"I first heard of him in Sports Illustrated a couple weeks ago, it was telling his batting average," says Bryan Federowicz, who was warming up on the same field Hamilton played on six years ago.

"Would I have projected him to be a first round Major League player? It's hard to say," says Eddie Hawkins who used to coach Josh in Little League. "I think it gives them some hope and encouragement to know they are on the same field Josh played on. It's something to dream for."

The former Little Leaguer's success has the young players running a little faster, hitting a little harder and dreaming a little bigger.

The Raleigh ball players are just a handful of the more than 3 million Little Leaguers across America.

There are roughly 6,000 Major and Minor League players. A spokesperson from the Little League's national headquarters says the odds of a player making it to the Major League are about 1 in 10,000.

Hamilton was not the only local player selected in the first round. North Carolina pitcher Kyle Snyder was picked seventh by Kansas City. The 6'8" junior battled a little tendinitis to finish 8-5 this year.

The Royals must also like pitching in the ACC, the team used its 25th pick to take Wake Forest pitcher Mike McDougald. Photographer: Joe Anthony

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Todd Hauer, Reporter
Jason Darwin, Web Editor

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