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Former Thomson teacher "tickled" to get Smoltz autograph

AUGUSTA - Melinda Cowart Overstreet went to the Augusta Greenjackets baseball game with one thing on her mind last Thursday night: getting an autograph from Major League baseball star John Smoltz.

"I've been wanting an autograph of John Smoltz since he began pitching for the Atlanta Braves 20 years ago," said Ms. Overstreet, a former teacher at Thomson Elementary from 1963-1967. "I'm so tickled to finally get it."

Ms. Overstreet, a retired teacher of 40 years and now living in Augusta, purchased a baseball depicting Smoltz years ago. She longed for the day to have it autographed by the former star pitcher of the Atlanta Braves who now is playing with the Boston Red Sox.

Such a day finally arrived last Thursday.

It came after Smoltz put on a dazzling three-inning performance for his current team, the Greenville Drive. He threw 29 pitches during that time - 23 of them being strikes and the other six balls. He yielded only one hit during that period - a single to Augusta's Juan Perez. The GreenJackets later went on to erupt for six runs in the sixth inning and ended up coasting to an 8-3 victory.

As he was departing from the field, Smoltz, who is rehabing from shoulder surgery nearly a year ago, received another rousing applause from the record 5,828 crowd that attended the game, despite the threat of rain. He acknowledged them with a wave of his cap a couple of times before retiring to the dressing room where he spoke with a host of reporters.

After fielding several questions from reporters in the locker room, the future Major League Hall of Famer signed Ms. Overstreet's ball.

"I can't believe I've finally gotten his autograph," said Ms. Overstreet.

Standing beside a railing overlooking a tunnel walkway at the rear of the visitor's grandstand with her son, Chris, of Martinez, Ms. Overstreet, like many others, had been hoping that Smoltz would come out and sign autographs. He didn't, however.

While standing there, Ms. Overstreet, a former varsity cheerleader sponsor at Thomson High School, struck up a conversation with local reporters.

She said of Smoltz: "He's a nice guy. He's a Christian. And I've always wanted to meet him and get his autograph."

Ms. Overstreet said that out of her 40 years of teaching, the experience in Thomson "was the best four years of teaching I ever had."

Web posted on Thursday, May 28, 2009

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