(Courtesy River City Rascals, Photo Credit: Mick Lite)
Veteran outfielder Eric Williams enters his fourth consecutive season in River City this coming spring after leading the Frontier League over the past two seasons combined with 192 walks. This ridiculous statistic has really become the experienced ballplayer’s calling card. When asked about his unfathomable walk total, Eric humbly says, “I get paid to get on base, and that’s how I get on base.” He also describes the “self-destructive effect” that other pitchers seem to demonstrate when facing the patient lefty. Frontier League pitchers know all too well Eric’s balanced approach at the plate, and because of that league-wide label, focus excessively on throwing him strikes. Instead of breaking the patient mentality of Williams’ approach at the plate, the self-conscious pitchers appear to get in their own heads perpetuating the phenomenal walk-to-strikeout ratio of the veteran outfielder.
His on-the-field play is directly representational of this matt-of-fact attitude as well. Instead of worrying about all of the off-the-field components associated with professional baseball, Williams quietly works hard, stays prepared, and helps others. In many ways he is the clubhouse model for all of the younger, professionally inexperienced ballplayers.
The best way to depict Eric’s work ethic and level of preparation is by looking at his surreal defensive production since joining the Rascals three seasons ago. Over those three seasons—that’s over two hundred and eighty games—Williams has committed only ONE error. Let me reiterate that, he has committed only ONE error! When asked about that one statistical blip on the radar, he claims to still vividly remember that defensive miscue. “I was playing center, and there was a base hit to centerfield. I was so worried about throwing the guy out at home that I didn’t watch the ball into my glove. It’s the one time that I broke my own rule, which I preach to all of the younger guys, ‘Never get ahead of yourself!’” In addition to not getting ahead of himself, Williams also realizes his need to stay focused on defense. “Always be prepared for anything,” he says. “I figured out at a young age that I wasn’t as good as a Bryce Harper on defense. I couldn’t just react to anything on the field. I quickly learned that in order to strive for the perfection I wanted, I had to anticipate everything. Before every pitch, I’m running the scenarios through in my head getting ready for whatever comes my way. That’s why, I think, I have been pretty good on defense.”
The veteran outfielder’s approach at the plate is equally impressive. Eric notes that he isn’t hesitant to hit with two strikes and has no problem letting the ball get deep into the zone. These circumstantial applications allow him to drive the ball the other way, often into the left-center gap, where extra-base hits are aplenty. His “slap-hitter like” approach helps get him on base and, more importantly, score runs!
In addition to his physical contributions, Eric’s mentorship of new players provides priceless feedback for rookies looking to keep up with the faster pace of the Frontier League. Williams loves “to help younger guys adjust to playing in the pros.” He knows what it’s like to have almost twice as many games and new off-the-field distractions. He wants to help in any way that he can. In that regard, Eric sees his role being similar to last season.
Eric’s baseball career is downright impressive, however, you probably already know that about the longtime River City Rascal; but do you know what his life outside of baseball is like? His off-season habits and career? Well he was kind enough to sit down recently and elaborate on the mysteries of his offseason life. In past winters, Williams has done odd-jobs wherever they became available and taught baseball lessons on the side, but this year, he wanted to be a little more career-oriented as he recognizes that he’s “in the latter half of [his] baseball career.”
After playing baseball with a few current Major Leaguers—Dustin Pedroia, Eric Sogard, and Andrew Romine—at Arizona State University, Williams completed his undergraduate degree in Psychology at Wake Forest in North Carolina. In 2012, he then continued his studies, earning an MBA from Newman University in Kansas. This offseason, with a solid educational background, he decided to join his brother working at a sports marketing firm in a small suburb outside of Philadelphia. Eric’s favorite part of the new job is “getting to work on a little bit of everything as [he] acclimates [himself] to the new line of work.” He is currently working hard on promoting the ACC Men’s Lacrosse Tournament coming up in Philadelphia.
As far as Eric’s offseason baseball routine, much remains the same with a few interspersed alterations. Lifting five mornings a week before work has long been a part of Eric’s offseason workout routine, along with an intense hitting program a few times a week. This winter however, Eric has discovered a new, additional, and fun way to stay in shape: indoor soccer! After recently joining an indoor soccer league and getting possibly more conditioning than he bargained for, Williams notes, “I feel like I’m in better shape than ever!” In combination with lifting and hitting, the sprint work could help the speedy, top-of-the-lineup hitter reach base even more in the upcoming 2014 campaign.
The New York native, and longtime Yankees and Rangers fan, also explained the meaning behind his jersey number. Eric sports the number “2” jersey as a nod to the future Hall of Fame Yankees shortstop, Derek Jeter. After experiencing professional baseball first-hand, Williams says he has acquired “immense respect for the classy way in which Jeter continuously conducts himself under the greatest of all pro-sports spotlights, New York City.”
The veteran outfielder—who loves Family Guy, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Eric Church, and the color blue—never stops doing his best to represent the Rascals with his incredible work ethic, preparation, and on-the-field production. While Eric Williams is often relatively quiet, when he does speak, everyone listens!