Waddell had a storied athletic career during his high school years as a shortstop with the Loveland Tiger baseball team and played a key role as a freshmen running back on the LHS Tiger 2013 Ohio State Championship Football Team. He just completed four years as shortstop with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Atlanta Georgia area and members of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).
Monday, all his hard work through high school and college paid off when the name Luke Waddell appeared as the 157th overall pick selected by the Atlanta Braves in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball (MLB) player draft. It was an exciting day as he watched at home in Loveland, Ohio with his parents (Lisa and Eric) and his brother Reid.
“I am doing great, thank you,” said Waddell the day after being chosen by the Braves. “It was crazy yesterday; just so much excitement. It was kind of a slow day before it happened and then it was a really great day!”
The great day came following the disappointment of a 2020 COVID year which saw hopes of a draft selection in 2020 disappear into the reality of a pandemic. Lisa Waddell says with the emotions that came with that one year ago, they approached the draft this year a little more quietly.
“We kind of tried to downplay things here at our house this year,” said Lisa. “We thought we knew what was going to happen last year and then it didn’t. So, we all tried to act like it was a normal day. It was really great.”
Leading up to the special moment Luke was in touch with his agent and keeping an eye on what was happening, but not completely glued to the MLB livestreaming of the draft. His agent had mentioned teams showing interest in the conversations they had through the day. Luke was just sitting when his agent called and told him to turn on the online stream he was about to be picked by the Braves.
“We threw it on,” Luke said. “My dad was working at home, my mom was here so we ran over to the computer and watched it. It was just as quick as that.”
Waddell described it as a “crazy” moment sitting there watching TV and the next second running over to the computer to see it. He had his pone on him, was aware of what was happening, and teams had an interest in selecting him.
“All of a sudden he called,” said Waddell. “It’s always a good thing to get phone calls from him so I answered it right away. It was a pretty quick conversation. He said I’d get picked. We talked briefly right after; basically he said enjoy your night I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Celebrate with your family.”
Waddell also received a call from the Braves Atlanta area scout who had been in touch with Luke throughout his entire four-year college career at Georgia Tech.
“We talked back and forth throughout my entire college career,” Luke said. “He’s a part of their organization. He just said: ‘You ready to do this? Congratulations.’ It was pretty surreal.”
The draft continued through the day Tuesday with teams still working on their picks. As a result, Luke has not heard any details of what is next for him, when or where he’ll report to begin his professional baseball career with the Atlanta Braves organization. He took the advice of his agent and celebrated with family Monday night.
“My brother came down from Columbus,” said Waddell. “We went to dinner. It was really an exciting time.”
The celebration came a year later than the Waddell family originally expected. The COVID pandemic changed the way the MLB draft looked one year ago in 2020. At the time, it seemed a disappointment, but Lisa Waddell sees it as a sort of blessing in disguise for her son.
“The blessing of it is Luke was able to go back to college and finish his degree,” Lisa said. “That’s something he doesn’t have to worry about now. That was probably the one positive in so many non-positives from COVID.”
Graduating meant a lot to Luke too. He even went out of his way to make it into at least a small portion of the graduation ceremony on a game day with a Yellow Jacket teammate. Another season with those teammates was equally important to the left-handed hitting shortstop. It proved to be another positive returning to college provided for Luke Waddell. Here’s what the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets published in light of their senior captain completing his college baseball career and being drafted by the Atlanta Braves.
Helping lead the Yellow Jackets to its second-consecutive ACC Coastal Division Championship, Waddell was one of just two to start and play in all 56 games in 2021. The second-year captain hit .309 for the season as one of the nation’s best table setters with 71 hits, 12 doubles, a triple and eight home runs for 33 RBI. En route to being named first-team all-ACC, the Loveland, Ohio native was one of the toughest hitters to strikeout out in the country, leading the ACC and ranking sixth nationally at 14.4 at-bats per strikeout. He finished his college career on fire, hitting .354 over the last two months of the season.
For his career, Waddell finished with the eighth-most assists (421) at Georgia Tech since 2002 and finished a career-.308 hitter in 172 games and 161 starts after hitting .300 in each of his final three years. He reached base .407 and stole 15 bases and finished with a .953 fielding percentage.
“We had a lot of fun series’ this year; just a great group of guys,” Luke said of his final season playing with Georgia Tech. “What I’ll miss the most about that place is the people, the friends, that time in the locker room is just special.”
Waddell described the season as a “hot start” sort of “up and down” but overall they were “really, really good.” They won their division of the ACC, made the semi-final of the conference tournament before losing to Vanderbilt at the end. For Luke, they will be some great game memories.
“I’ll be following Georgia Tech Baseball for the rest of my life, especially these guys I know on the team now,” he said. “They’re going to be really good next year. They have a lot of talent. I’m just so happy I went to Georgia Tech. I graduated this year. That was nice. It’s been a really exciting year; a good year and it all worked out in the end.”
It is not the end, but rather a new beginning for Luke as he is now set to embark upon a professional career playing the game he loves in a city he has come to love while playing college baseball at Georgia Tech. His mom thought he would likely stay in Atlanta to pursue a job after graduation anyway. Being selected by the Atlanta Braves is like having the chance to stay home – even if it is his second home.
“Atlanta was a really neat pick for him with him having spent the last four years there. He thinks very, very fondly of that city,” Lisa Waddell said. “For us it was just a big sigh of relief. It’s validation of the work he’s done and that he does add value to these major league teams.”
Luke knows he still has a lot of work ahead of him. When and where that work will begin within the Braves organization remains unknown today. As the draft results settle for the team in the next few days, he expects to learn the details of exactly what is next for him as a professional baseball player working to make the next jump to playing Major League Baseball. Right now he’s healthy, ready to get on the field and play again. Luke is also very grateful for all the support shown by family, friends and the Loveland community at large.
“My guess is all 20 of us, if everybody signs, get down to their facility probably take a couple weeks start working out, start hitting, maybe some scrimmaging. I have no idea,” Luke said. “I assume they’d just take us down to the facility kind of get us acclimated to the Braves organization. I’ve been working out and hitting. I’m well rested. To be honest, I’m ready to get out there and start playing. I’m just so excited and ready to start. I can’t wait.”