It's A Braves New World For Tiger Pitcher

Auburn, Ala.--For a baseball pitcher growing up in Auburn, having the opportunity to play for the hometown Auburn University Tigers has been special.

For Michael Nix, the baseball excitement will continue as he gets to play the game he loves professionally for another team he has watched and cheered for his whole life, the Atlanta Braves. In addition to watching games on TV, Nix says whenever he could he would make the two-hour trip up I-85 to Turner Field to watch the Braves in person.

On Friday night, he made the trip as more than just a fan. When he arrived at Turner Field the big right-hander signed his contract to play for the Braves and he will soon find out where his pro pitching debut will be.

"It's a dream come true for me," he tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. Nix, who just finished his redshirt junior year at Auburn, notes that he wasn't in a hurry to leave college, but admits that "ever since I was a Little Leaguer I have dreamed about playing in the Major Leagues."

The fact that it was the Braves who drafted him in the 11th round made the decision to go pro easier to make. "I have followed the Braves my whole life and I was really excited when they called me and told me they were planning to draft me," he says.

John Schuerholz (left), general manager of the Braves, was there for the signing of a minor league contract with pitcher Michael Nix (center) and his father, Mike Nix (right).

The Braves asked the right-hander if he would sign if they picked him and he told them yes. In a five-minute stretch before he was drafted, his phone kept ringing with other teams such as the Arizona Diamondbacks, St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres asking him the same question about whether or not he was ready to sign with a pro team or stay in college for a fifth season.

"I was fairly close to my cutoff point in the draft," Nix notes. "If I was not drafted on the first day, I probably would have come back to play next season at Auburn and see what happened with the draft after that. However, the choice was not that hard because it was the Braves. It was a big relief to me when I was drafted. It was nerve-wracking sit there waiting to hear my name called. When it happened, it was like I got a piano off my back."

Nix is scheduled to report to the Braves' training camp in Orlando on Friday for workouts with other rookies. He says that Atlanta officials told him he will be assigned to play in either Danville, Va., for a short season league or to Rome, Ga., for a long season summer league

"Wherever they send me I am just excited about the opportunity," he says.

Nix, who stands 6-4, 240 pounds, notes that he is about three semesters shy of finishing his Auburn degree in economics. Whenever he is ready to go back to college, his contract calls for the Braves to pay for the cost of his schooling, which works out to a win-win situation on the academic/athletic front.

Nix was one of the top players in the state of Alabama at Auburn High School. As a senior in 2001, he was 10-1 with a 1.35 earned run average. He was also outstanding at the plate, hitting .425 with eight homers and 55 RBI.

He followed in the footsteps of his father, Judge Mike Nix, who also played baseball for the Tigers as well as basketball. Michael's uncle, Paul Nix, was a long-time fixture at Plainsman Park as head coach of the baseball Tigers from 1963-1984.

The new Braves pitcher redshirted his first season at Auburn University and transferred to Central Alabama Community College in Alexander City for the 2003 season for the opportunity to get more pitching game action. He posted a 9-2 record with a 1.61 earned run average while striking out 64 batters in 52 2/3 innings. He also hit .354 with two homers and 58 RBI.

Nix returned to Auburn for the 2003 season and pitched in 20 games as a reliever. He was 1-3 with a 4.56 earned run average and allowed just 22 hits and struck out 30 batters in 25 2/3 innings pitched. Opponents hit just .247 vs. Nix.

This past season, he appeared in 32 games, all in relief, and finished the season with a 5-3 record. He allowed 52 hits in 59 innings pitched and struck out 58 batters while walking just 14. He posted a 3.20 earned average and opponents hit just .244 vs. Nix. He was Auburn's closer with 13 saves, six shy of the school record set by Finley Woodward in 1995.

Nix is shown in action for the Tigers.

The pitcher and his father made the short trip to Turner Field where Nix signed papers and talked with Braves' officials, including team general manager John Schuerholz, whose son Jonathan played with Nix at Auburn.

After getting all of the paperwork done, the pitcher and his father watched the Braves play at Turner Field before driving back to Auburn to end a memorable day. Judge Nix noted that the experience was a special one and that he is a proud father. Michael said his dad isn't the only Nix who is happy that he signed with Atlanta.

"There are a lot of big Braves fans in my family so we have a lot of very excited people," Nix notes. "This is something I have dreamed about since I was a little kid and I am really excited, too."

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