(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
Making the transition from the junior college level to NCAA competition is hard for any athlete, but Arizona State outfielder Daniel Williams is trying his hardest to make the most of the opportunity that he’s been presented with.
In his first year at ASU after playing two years at Weatherford College in Texas, Williams couldn’t pass up the chance to play at such a storied program.
“When someone mentions ASU baseball, it’s MLBU for a reason. When that opportunity came it was a no-brainer,” Williams said. “The rich tradition, you got (Dustin) Pedroia, (Barry) Bonds, Reggie Jackson, the Wall of Honor, a bunch of draftees. Then you have the alumni who got drafted last year who come back and work out and give us their wisdom, so it’s obviously just a great program.”
The junior out of Round Rock, Texas, started off the season in a starting role for the Sun Devils, but has struggled in the first month of the season and hasn’t been able to hold onto his left field spot on a consistent basis.
Though Williams has appeared in all but three of the team’s 19 games, he has only ten starts and is batting just .194 with 16 strikeouts in 36 at-bats. At the same time, he’s still finding ways to be productive as he’s tied for fourth on the team in on-base percentage (.370) and is 2-2 on stolen base attempts.
Williams still believes that his hitting is what has improved the most since arriving on campus at the beginning of this year.
“In the fall, I was not doing well whatsoever. I went home for the winter, fixed some things about my swing, and I’ve really had an improvement,” Williams said.
Head coach Tracy Smith knows that there is something special with Williams’ skill set that can help the team if he can perform at a high level.
“I thought Daniel possessed those tools, he still had a ways to go in terms of polish of his game, but he brought a tool set that’s pretty unique for a guy of that size,” Smith said. “There are stretches he’ll go through where his swing is much shorter, and when he does that it’s pretty darn good.”
Junior college transfers have unique impacts on an NCAA team in that they have a workload of competing against competition superior to that of high school, but lack the experience of competing at the highest level of college athletics.
Williams believes that his position of coming from a junior college gives him the ability to act as leader when necessary, but still yields to players who have succeeded at the NCAA level, such as shortstop Colby Woodmansee or catcher Brian Serven.
“They’ve put their hard work in for three years, so I’m not going to try and transfer from a JUCO and take the team over or whatever. But I’m older than the freshmen, so I also won’t let (the) freshmen do something that they shouldn’t be doing,” Williams said. “I’ll definitely pull them to the side and talk to them, instead of them getting yelled at or being told by the seniors. I won’t say that I’m a leader, but I also won’t say that I’m at the freshman level.”
The revolving door that the left field position for ASU has been this season has included Williams, freshman Tyler Williams, and sophomores Coltin Gerhart and Ryan Lillard. No one has been able to secure the spot for any prolonged stretch as freshman Gage Canning has in right field. Despite his struggles up to this point, Williams will never stop battling to regain the starting nod from Smith.
“For myself, I’m a huge competitor and I don’t like being behind someone,” Williams said. “So definitely those are my expectations, to come in and definitely have a role and help the team out.”