Les Williams Interview: Blue Jays Pitching Prospect is Ready to Roll in 2012
Sunday February 5th, 2012
MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: One of our favorite type of stories on MLB reports is when we see a local kid that “makes good” in baseball. For the Blue Jays, then dipped into the Toronto market to draft Leslie Williams in the 37th round of last year’s draft. The Toronto native Williams went directly to the Appalachian League to suit up for the Bluefield Blue Jays. Les got into 17 games, all but 1 coming out of the pen. Looking to 2012, Les is open to his role but would very much value a starting job. Standing 6’2″ at a solid 220 lbs, Les looks every part of a major league starting pitcher. His go-to pitch is his cutter, which he complements with a changeup. Les and I had the opportunity to speak while he was still in Toronto before leaving for Spring Training. A down-to-earth person, Les is definitely grounded and has his priorities in order. For a city looking for local heroes, Toronto fans can look forward to one day seeing Les Williams standing on the Rogers Centre’ mound- wearing the blue and white Jays uniform.
If you catch Les Williams away from the park, he will likely be eating chicken parmesan and listening to the Temptations. Just whatever you do…don’t stay overnight in an unlocked room at his place (or he will make sure that you have nightmares for years to follow!) With his dynamic personality and storytelling abilities, it was a treat to learn about Les Williams, the person. Today on MLB reports, I am proud to present my interview with Jays pitching prospect, Les Williams:
MLB reports: Thank you for taking the time to join us today Les. How has your offseason gone so far?
Les Williams: My off-season has been great. I’ve been able to get a lot of work done physically and just preparing myself mentally for the season ahead. I’ve been able to get a good job that falls within my field of study at school, so that has been a lot of fun as well. I’m not a huge fan of the snow here in Toronto, so I’m looking forward to heading back down south.
MLB reports: You just completed your 1st professional season. How have you found the process of getting adjusted to playing professional baseball?
Les Williams: The process has been for the most part what I expected. I’ve heard many stories from players who have experience life in pro ball and most of those stories hold true. The experience is something I’ve longed for since I started playing the game.
MLB reports: You were drafted by the Jays in the 37th round of the 2011 draft. Did you expect to be drafted by Jays – any pressure to be chosen by your hometown team?
Les Williams: After going through the draft process in high school, I learned that anything can happen, and not to expect anything at all. I did well at a pre-draft workout for the Jays and I was hoping that I did well enough for them to consider taking me this year. As a college senior getting drafted in the later rounds there’s no pressure. All you can do is go out and prove to the organization that you are worth keeping around and that you are determined to reach your highest potential.
MLB reports: How did you first find out you were drafted: what was that like?
Les Williams: I was excited to say the least. I was in the middle of class watching the draft and when I heard my name I stepped out of class and called my parents. They pretended they were surprised but I’m sure they were watching the draft as well. Seeing my name beside the Blue Jays logo was a dream come true.
MLB reports: Ever have to pinch yourself: does it feel like a dream playing professional baseball?
Les Williams: Have you ever had a dream and just moments after you wake up, you forget what you dreamt about? That’s what the couple of days after the draft were like. I barely remember anything between that day and the day I signed the contract in Florida.
MLB reports: What other sports did you playing growing up?
Les Williams: I played just about every sport up until my sophomore year in High School. I continued to play basketball up until my senior year, which is when I decided not to take the risk of hurting myself and jeopardizing my scholarship.
MLB reports: What are your most dominant pitches? Any new ones you are working on?
Les Williams: My cutter is my best pitch. I used it quite a bit my Junior and Senior years in college and it helped a lot during my season in Bluefield. I’m working on sharpening up my slider to have a pitch with some depth. And I’m placing a lot of emphasis on the effectiveness of my changeup as well.
MLB reports: How would you describe “your game”? What “type” of pitcher are you?
Les Williams: I like to fill up the zone and get ahead of batters early. I HATE walking guys. There is nothing worse than giving up a free base because a defense can’t stop that. I much rather give up a hard hit single or a double because the next time the batter comes up, I know how I can approach his at bat better.
MLB reports: Looking into a crystal ball, when do you expect to make it to the Show?
Les Williams: That’s something I can’t put a timeline on. There are so many variables that determine that. The only thing I have control of is the way I compete and carry myself on and off the field. That is my ultimate goal and I am doing everything in my power to reach that pinnacle. I’m not going to stop until they rip the jersey off my back.
MLB reports: Long term: do you expect to stay a starter or will you consider a move to the pen?
Les Williams: I’ve always been a starter and this year was the first time I was in a relief role. To be honest, I love to start. I enjoy being in control of the game and giving my team a chance to win. But being in a relief role, I experienced a type of adrenaline rush that you can’t get as a starter. Being in situations with the game on the line is what this game is all about. Any role that I can take to best help the organization succeed is one I am more than willing to take.
MLB reports: What are your goals for 2012?
Les Williams: I plan on having a very successful year and show the organization that I’m here to stay. I hope to spend the majority of the year in A with Lansing and if all goes well, an end of season stint in Dunedin. As college guy, I have to set my expectations high because of the experience and the maturity level that college signed guys possess.
MLB reports: If you weren’t playing baseball, you would be __________________
Les Williams: Probably be working as a Federal Agent in ICE or A Fugitive Task Force. Or I’d be in grad school working my way to become a Forensic Accountant!
MLB reports: Favorite pre-game meal?
Les Williams: Chicken Parm. I threw a no-hitter when I was 12 after a chicken parm dinner, so now I try to eat it when I know I’m going to pitch.
MLB reports: What music are you currently listening to?
Les Williams: I listen to any and anything. Anything from The Temptations to Hip-Hop to Darius Rucker to plain old instrumentals.
MLB reports: Funniest prank you ever saw in a clubhouse?
Les Williams: Well it wasn’t in our clubhouse but it was in our dorm where our team stayed after classes had finished for the year and our season was still in progress. One of our pitchers was staying off campus and moved out a couple of days to early, so he needed a place to stay. So he decided it was a good idea to sleep in a vacant room in the dorm. The doors don’t lock on this vacant room so one night at about 1am, me and another teammate dressed in all black and put on masks. We snuck into the room, opened the curtain to let some moonlight in and hovered over his bed. I ripped the sheets off him and said in a deep voice “You shouldn’t have left the door open”. I have never seen a grown man scream like that in my entire life. It is still by far the funniest moment of my time in college. (editor’s note: I will admit that I cannot stop laughing at this one…although I do feel sorry for this nameless soul that has been traumatized for life as a result…)
MLB reports: Final question: What would you most want to be remembered for in baseball when you hang up your spikes?
Les Williams: I want to be remembered as someone who played his heart out and never wasted an opportunity to get better and succeed.
***Thank you to Les Williams for taking the time today to speak with us on MLB reports. You can follow Les on Twitter (@LesRWilliams). Les is VERY excited to be entering his 2nd professional season. Be sure to say hello and wish him the best of luck in 2012!
Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)
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