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Sunday, January 06, 2013

He's not stopping 'anytime soon'

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Eric Williams carries himself with a humble air of confidence. He seems to hustle at anything he does, even when his coach for PG 1-Black at this weekend's 2013 Perfect Game World Showcase found him warming up out in right field before his final game Sunday morning and asked him, please, would he mind talking with a reporter standing over there in the first base dugout.

Williams arrived in the dugout at George Brett Field at Terry Park after completing a flat-out sprint, running to the brief meeting with the same intensity he showed when he ran a personal-best time in the 60-yard dash Saturday morning. At 5-feet, 10-inches tall and a solid 190 pounds, Williams looked to be the mirror-image of old Charlie Hustle himself, Pete Rose.

He was still catching his breath when the PG questioner asked his reasons for traveling all the way from his home in Rowlett, Texas, to southwest Florida for the singular reason of competing at the PG World Showcase.

"I'm trying to show people that I'm getting better every day," Williams said. "I'm putting in a lot of work at home, waking up early, trying to beat everybody out there that's my competition. A lot of people are ranked higher than me and I don't think they should be, so I'm trying to prove that out here now."

That was, by the way, spoken with a true air of confidence without a single whiff of cockiness. Williams, a senior at Sachse (Texas) High School who is ranked 218th nationally in the class of 2013 and has yet to commit to a college, simply loves to compete against the country's other top-notch prospects. The only thing he might like better than competing against the best guys is getting the opportunity to compare himself with the best guys.

This is Williams' fourth Perfect Game showcase, coming after appearances at the 2010 PG South Underclass Showcase in McKinney, Texas; the 2011 PG Junior National Showcase right here in Fort Myers; and the 2012 PG National Showcase in Minneapolis.

"I'm still a little nervous at the beginning but I feel great today," Williams said Sunday. "These (showcases) are real beneficial. You get to know where you're at and you get to compare yourself to the best (players) out there and see where you stand, and hopefully just keep improving."

Williams' workout session Saturday was impressive in more than one way. He threw 95 mph from the outfield to home plate, not unexpected since he threw 97 mph in Minneapolis. He ran a personal-best 6.76-seconds in the 60-yard dash, again not totally shocking since he had ran a 6.85 at the PG National.

"I'm pleased with it," he said of his workout. "I hit pretty well (in BP) and I did real well in the game, so I'm happy with my overall performance. I always have high expectations for everything I do. I planned on throwing the hardest (from the outfield)  -- my arm wasn't in the best shape ever, but I still threw well."

What did cause a little bit of a stir was when he donned catcher's gear and took part in the two catchers' workouts. He responded with a 1.93 Pop time (tied for 12th place among the competitors) then threw from home to second base at 82 mph, the top catchers' velocity recorded at the showcase.

"The thing with Eric defensively is he obviously has a right-field arm, and he runs well enough to maybe play center field at the next level," David Rawnsley, PG's national director of scouting related Sunday morning. "The arm is the big tool, but he's a 5-10, right-handed hitting outfielder, and when you look at what scouts are looking at, right-handed corner outfielders are not a very popular demographic."

Looking at his build and speed, the discussion among the scouts observing Williams drifted toward the catching position. By his own account, he hadn't done any catching since he was 10 or 11 years old but at the urging of some of those scouts, he decided to don the gear.

"A couple of scouts were saying that because of my build they wanted to try me at catcher and I have a good arm, but I was just doing it for fun, seeing where I might stand in comparison to the other guys," Williams said, sounding a familiar theme. "I didn't do too bad, so I was all right with it.

"I'm up for anything," he continued. "If anybody wants to move me anywhere, I'll try anything. I used to play infield until I moved to Texas when I was 10, and I've caught, pitched -- I've done it all, so where ever they want to put me, I'll go."

Count PG's Rawnsley among those who think that at least giving catching a stab might work in Williams' favor.

"Eric has that perfect catcher's build," Rawnsley said. "He's 5-10, 190-pounds, quick and athletic. He's got the big arm ... but it was a very long arm action, it was not a catcher's arm action; you could tell he had not been coached behind the plate. But all the physical attributes of a catcher are right there and it would be an interesting thing to see him develop more."

Williams played with Team Citius out of Dallas most of last summer, and enjoyed the experience. Team Citius is an organization with headquarters in New York and Texas that fills its rosters with players from all across the country.

"Our coaches get a lot of guys from all over and puts us together," Williams said. "A lot of them I don't know but they're top guys and you're always playing with the best. If you have a bad day, you know where you're at compared to them, and they can have a bad day, too."

There is no argument that right now Williams' strengths are his arm, his speed and his bat. He graded-out at perfect 10.0 ratings at both the 2011 PG Jr. National and the 2012 PG National, and those perfect grades aren't given out like Halloween candy.

His ability to hit the ball is has never been questioned. Rawnsley was asked Sunday morning about Williams' hitting prowess, and he responded with a slight hint of sarcasm:

"Other than the fact that his first two swings in the game he played-in last night went off the center field fence?"

"No, Eric is one of these guys that has tons of bat speed, and he's a very aggressive hitter; in fact, he's very aggressive in every phase of his game," Rawnsley said. "When he gets a pitch out over the plate he can really drive it and pull it hard; every time I've seen him hit, he hits the ball hard. He's going to have some swing-and-miss against the better pitchers because he's got that big swing, but when he gets a pitch over the plate he's going to hit it as hard as anybody."

There was a point when Williams had committed to Texas Tech but that commitment fell through. PG does not have him ranked among the top 300 in its overall (college, juco, high school players) draft prospect rankings, but Rawnsley doesn't think he's a player that should be dismissed.

"The scouts are going to have see him and he's going to be on their draft list, and how that figures out in the spring, we'll see," Rawnsley said Sunday. "But he's a high, high D-I; he can play at any college in the country tool-wise."

Confident as ever, Williams agrees with Rawnsley's assessment.

"I'm out here showing it now, so if somebody wants to pick me up, they'll pick me up," he said. "I've played for 14 years and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon."

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