Williams Takes Reigns in Williamsport
Back in November, we posted on the blog about some of the Ducks alumni who are now coaching in affiliated baseball. Among those on the list were J.R. House, who just took over as manager of the Single-A Hillsboro Hops. Today, one more former Duck was added to the list of alumni that are now managing in affiliated baseball: Shawn Williams. The one-time Duck will begin his managerial career in 2014 with the Single-A Williamsport Crosscutters of the New York-Penn League.
“The organization offered the position to me a couple of days ago,” Williams said via telephone on Tuesday. “It was a surprise, but a good surprise. They asked me if I would be willing to do it, and I said ‘Yeah, I’m looking forward to it, can’t wait!’”
To get to this point, let’s start back in 2012. Prior to that season, Williams was brought to Long Island to serve as the team’s utility man. He could play every position on the field, including catcher, where he would share the duties with Josh Johnson and Ryan Garko. Out of 137 games that year, Williams ended up playing in 102 of them and became a vital piece to Long Island’s championship puzzle.
He played every position on the field except center field and pitcher and played exemplary defense as well, committing just six errors. Offensively, he contributed in every way possible. Williams batted .272 and compiled a .353 on-base percentage. He showed some power with six home runs and added 46 RBI, 96 hits, 14 doubles and two triples. Another aspect of his game that proved to be important was his speed, and Williams ended the year with 18 stolen bases while being caught just five times. His solid season helped the Ducks to the First Half Liberty Division title and a spot in the playoffs and ultimately, the franchise’s first championship since 2004. The final memory of that season will always stand out in Williams’ mind.
“The best memory, I still talk about it and I know a lot of the other guys on that team still talk about it, was that walk-off bunt by Danny Lyons,” he reminisced. “That was unbelievable. It was just such an instinctual play, and it was just such a great year. Between having that awesome first half and finishing strong, the guys I got to play with, it was really neat.”
Williams was set to return to Long Island for the 2013 season as well. He had re-signed with the Ducks on February 15, but his plans were altered when he was working on a Florida golf course in the early morning. His phone unexpectedly started to ring, and it would change the course of his career in professional baseball.
“It was about three days before the Phillies spring training started, and I always worked the morning shift,” he recalled. “I started working at 5:30 in the morning I think, and I got a call at about 7:30 or 8:00 and was wondering ‘who’s calling me this early?’ It was [Phillies Assistant Director of Player Development] Steve Noworyta, and he said ‘Yeah, I just wanted to call and invite you to spring training as a catcher. We start in three days. Are you ready to go?’ I was absolutely ready, so it was pretty cool.”
Williams reported to Phillies spring training in nearby Clearwater, Florida with the hopes of continuing his career behind the plate. However, after a couple of weeks, the team informed him that they did not have a spot for him to play but wanted him to serve as a coach with the team. The former Tampa Bay rays farmhand had played seven seasons of pro ball, reaching as high as Single-A as recently as 2010. While he still felt he could play, the switch hitter retired as a player and began his coaching career.
After staying down in Florida coaching at extended spring training with the Phillies, Williams was assigned to Single-A Williamsport to serve as a coach on the staff of manager Nelson Prada. It’s not common that those new to coaching will skip rookie-level leagues, but this was certainly an exception. While his role was not as clearly defined, Williams was able to assist in a variety of areas as a “fourth coach.”
“I kind of just helped with everything,” he said. “Whatever they needed, between helping with the hitting coach or doing our individual work with the players defensively and at catcher, I was just there to help them out, coach first base and do stuff like that.”
Williamsport finished the year fourth in the New York-Penn League’s Pinckney Division at 37-38, but the former Duck had received some valuable coaching experience. Fast-forward five months later to this February where Williams was once again reporting to Phillies spring training in Clearwater. This time, he knew from the get-go that he would be serving as a coach in the organization and began working with players to get them ready for the season. However a few days ago, he received the news that a promotion was in store, one that was certainly not expected.
Prada was getting promoted to the team’s high-A affiliate in the Florida State League, opening the door for Williams to take the open managerial spot at Williamsport. After just one year of coaching in affiliated baseball, the 30-year-old will be among the youngest managers in the game. Regardless, he is taking over a franchise that has won a pair of league championships and will be looking for their first title since 2003. While he may be young, he’s got championship experience from his days with the Ducks and a great deal of baseball knowledge in the family.
Shawn’s father, Jimy Williams, spent time over two seasons (1966-67) in the Major Leagues as a player with the St. Louis Cardinals and followed that up with a career in coaching. Most notably, he served as a manager of the Toronto Blue Jays (1986-89), Boston Red Sox (1997-2001) and Houston Astros (2002-04). Jimy has ties to the Phillies organization as well, serving as a bench coach with the team in 2007 and their championship year of 2008. Shawn’s brother Brady also had a seven-year career in the minor leagues including a couple of seasons in the Atlantic League (Road Warriors, 2004 and Bluefish, 2005). Since then, he has served as a manager for five seasons and led three teams to the postseason. Most recently, he took the Single-A Charlotte Stone Crabs to the championship series. This year, he too received a promotion just like his brother and will now be the skipper for the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits.
“My dad lives in Palm Harbor which is about 10 minutes from the Phillies spring training facility,” noted Shawn. “Between going to Montgomery to watch Brady and coming here to see me and my two sisters, he’s always traveling around to visit all of us.”
The Williams family has a plethora of baseball pedigree, and Ducks fans should be excited for a guy like Shawn. He was a professional since day one on Long Island, working as hard as possible both on and off the field to produce for manager Kevin Baez. His playing career ended with a championship ring on Long Island and an opportunity in spring training with a Major League team. Since that point, he’s gone nowhere but up, and that acceleration has gone incredibly fast. We’ll be keeping an eye on how Williams’ Crosscutters do this season. And if you’re looking to see Shawn in person as a manager, Williamsport will be in Staten Island to face the Yankees July 16-18 and in Brooklyn to face the Cyclones July 19-21.
Posted on February 25, 2014, in Feature Articles and tagged 2012, Atlantic League, Brady Williams, Championship, Jimy Williams, Kevin Baez, Long Island Ducks, Manager, New York-Penn League, Philadelphia Phillies, Shawn Williams, Spring Training, Williamsport Crosscutters. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.