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Showcase | Story | 6/14/2012

Affable Williams climbs rankings

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

MINNEAPOLIS - Terrebonne High School in Houma, La., could be known for graduating former NFL All-Pro place-kicker Richie Cunningham and NLF wide receiver Frank Lewis, or maybe even former New York Yankees pitcher Wally Whitehurst.

Now there is another young man from Houma - a city of about 34,000 residents not far from New Orleans that is rich in Cajun culture and tradition - who, if fate treats him fairly, could one day become the biggest athletic success story Terrebonne High has ever produced.

Justin Williams - an affable, easygoing, ready-with-a-smile, 6-foot-2, 210-pound slugging outfielder/third baseman who will be a senior at Terrebonne in the fall - is a still developing prospect who has climbed the rankings and is now considered to potentially be a first round selection in the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft.

He has already committed to play collegiately at Louisiana State.

Williams will be here at the Metrodome over the next several days displaying his considerable talents in front of professional scouts at the 2012 Perfect Game National Showcase. He is ranked the No. 4 overall national prospect in the high school graduating class of 2013, and has earned that ranking despite having played the game for only the past several years. The word "raw" is still used frequently when the conversation turns to Williams.

After Williams was named the top prospect at the PG National Underclass Showcase-Main Event in late December, 2011, Perfect Game National Director of Scouting David Rawnsley noted that the left-handed hitting Williams "still has some rough spots in his swing but he has outstanding raw strength and power to all fields, the kind that plays in the Major Leagues."

During a batting practice session early Thursday afternoon, Williams hit a couple of bombs into the Metrodome's upper deck deep in right field.

"I just want to do my best. I want to play to the best of my potential," Williams told Perfect Game about an hour before his BP session. "I've been to a couple of Perfect Game events and now I'm starting to get more comfortable and I'm not as nervous, and I can show off my real skills when I'm not quite as jittery."

Williams made a couple of decisions in the past year that should go along ways toward enhancing his baseball career. First, he got hooked up with Chad Raley at Baton Rouge-based Marucci Elite Baseball last summer. He then gave up football and basketball after the 2011 high school seasons to concentrate solely on baseball.

Williams was the No. 18-ranked prospect when he was at the PG National Underclass Showcase-Main Event and climbed 14 positions to No. 4 in the last six months.

"Baseball is my first love," he said in December. "I played football to stay in shape - I really didn't like it all that much - and basketball was just something I did for fun. I'm just going to stick with baseball now. I want to pay more attention to baseball and the areas I need to work on, and I'm going to work on that so I can become a better player."

On Thursday, Williams showed off an ugly, half-dollar-sized scabbed over blister on one of his palms that looked like it was possibly starting to turn to callous. That's what hard work can render.

"I've been taking a lot of BP and I've been working on my throwing because I'm a little stiff in my lower body," Williams said. "Chad Raley, I thank him a lot because he's the reason I'm here."

Raley and Williams have formed an important relationship, one aimed at making Williams the best baseball player he can be. Upon completion of his school year, Williams moved into Raley's home in Baton Rouge, and the two spend hours each day working out at Marucci Elite's indoor facility. Raley calls Williams a "big kid" at heart who is just now learning the reaches of his potential.

"He just wants to keep getting better," Raley said Thursday. "I think last year he didn't really understand how good he was and he's starting to understand that now. He still doesn't quite have that confidence of knowing how good he is ... and I keep trying to tell him that someday he could make a lot of money in this game. Hitting comes really easy to him."

Williams played in five PG WWBA tournaments in 2011, and was also at the 2011 PG Junior National Showcase in Fort Myers (in addition to the aforementioned PG National Underclass-Main Event). He played at the 2012 17u/18u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational with Marucci Elite last week, where he was joined by fellow PG National Green team members and top-six ranked prospects Oscar Mercado and Christopher Rivera.

"I'm seeing all the talent from around the country and seeing that everyone is just as good as me and I know I have to keep working hard," Williams said of his experiences.

Because he was still playing football last fall, Williams missed out on participating in either the 2011 PG WWBA Underclass World Championship or the PG WWBA World Championship, a pair of tournaments Marucci Elite won. The fact he missed those celebrations still stings.

"The thing I've been looking forward to is getting a ring with Marucci," Williams said Thursday. "And then the tournaments I couldn't get to because of football, we won a ring. I'm really looking forward to getting back down (to Jupiter) this year and winning a ring."

Raley can only smile at the thought.

"All the guys jack around with him and show him their rings and stuff and he wants one real bad," the coach said. There could be plenty of rings for the young man from Houma, La., in the future.

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