favorite moment as a baseball player happened to also be the one that defined him as a player.
It was in July 2010, and the smooth-swinging lefty had hit three consecutive home runs in one game at the World Wood Baseball Bat Association's 16-and-under Tournament. Williams was in the on-deck circle and his teammates were anxiously looking on from their dugout perches. All eyes were on the teenager who was already drawing comparisons to his boyhood idol, Ken Griffey Jr. Could he do the nearly impossible and belt a fourth-straight homer?
The odds were against him. Bets were on.
He defied the odds.
Williams not only hit a fourth-straight home run, but went on to hit two more round-trippers in subsequent games on his way to being named the tournament's Most Valuable Player despite his team finishing in third place. It was during those games that the Ball (Galveston, Texas)
centerfielder first realized he had a special talent.
"That summer when I picked up a wood bat and did well is when I knew," Williams said. "Everything came so easily."
So easily, it even impressed his peers.
"He's a really good hitter," said Albuquerque Academy's (N.M.) Alex Bregman, a potential high draft pick in June's amateur draft. "He's really got some pop."
Williams can do more than hit. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound senior is blessed with the five traits — arm strength, range, speed, and hitting for power and average — every player dreams of possessing, but that few actually do. He finished the regular season with a .351 batting average and 1.006 OPS in leading the Tornadoes to 20 wins and the district title.
Most experts predict he'll be a first-round draft choice in June's amateur draft. Yet, despite the accolades, Williams has kept his ego in check.
"He constantly surprises me with how he has handled the pressure of being such an outstanding athlete and getting the attention from professional scouts," Ball coach Steve Hecker said. "He could ‘big league' other kids and coaches, but he doesn't … ever."
If he is drafted, the three-year starter said he'll have a tough decision to make between signing a pro contract and playing at the University of Texas on a full baseball scholarship.
"I have no idea right now," said Williams, who was an all-county, all-district and all-Greater Houston area selection last year. "Money will play into it a little bit, but most of all I'll go with what feels right and the most comforting."
And what will his coach's advice be?
"I will advise him to go with his heart," Hecker said. "Go the direction that you feel you will become a better person and baseball player."
For now, as the Tornadoes head into the state playoffs for the second-straight season, Hecker takes comfort in knowing that every time his No. 3 hitter steps to the plate, there's the potential for something big to happen.
"He has unbelievable power," the second-year coach said, "and exceptional speed for a big guy. He is the most physically gifted athlete I have ever coached."
Williams claims his best physical gift is his speed — he has 23 stolen bases — which explains how he was named to several all-star teams last year as a wide receiver on the football team. It also shouldn't come as a surprise that he scampered for five triples in just the first three weeks of the season.
But Williams does slow down. Well, sort of. Just not on the baseball field.
In his spare time he likes to fish. What's surprising is that, while most people who cast a rod enjoy the relaxation that comes along with sitting on a dock or in a boat, often nodding off with nary a care in the world, Williams enjoys the sport for another reason.
"I like the fact that you can do so many other things when your pole is in the lake and you are waiting for a fish to bite," he explained. "You can throw the football around, fool around, and do a lot of other things while you are waiting."
His actions while fishing might best explain why Williams said that "focusing" is the one area of his game he needs to work on.
"Sometimes my mind wanders during games," he admitted.
Ironically, Williams was focused enough in Little League to pitch 12 no-hitters, and one day hopes to focus on music, as a producer (he'll major in fine arts if he attends Texas).
But his bigger dream is to be a major-leaguer. His favorite team is the Texas Rangers, who hold the 29th pick in June's amateur draft. Ironically, another Texas team, the Astros, have the first overall pick and some local reports have speculated that Houston might use that pick to take Williams, who would then join fellow Ball High graduate Brandon Backe in the Astros organization.
"I hope to go in the first round," Williams said with some hesitancy. "But you just never know."
His coach is convinced Williams will be a success regardless of where his future leads.
"He is a great kid, one of the nicest you'll ever meet," Hecker said. "He has all the physical and mental characteristics that will allow for a successful future in anything he does."
Only time will tell what the future holds for Williams. The odds are against most high school players ever making it to the big leagues. But anyone who has ever seen Williams swing a bat wouldn't bet against him at any odds. Jon Buzby is the sports columnist for the Newark Post, a freelance writer, and on the broadcast team for the 1290AM The Ticket High School Football and Basketball Games of the Week. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.