When September 2017 rolled around it was time for the annual call-ups. Righty pitcher Taylor Williams got the call from the Milwaukee Brewers.
It was Williams first season back from an elbow injury that kept him sidelined for two full seasons. But lucky for him, he got to fulfill a dream. Though it seems he will have some work to do in 2018 to get back to the Milwaukee Brewers, seeing as he hadn’t thrown a pitch higher than Double A.
During his time with the Crew, Williams threw for a sub two ERA in just under five innings. It isn’t a huge sample size, but it is enough to warrant a look this Spring for a rotation spot. He was also nice enough to answer some questions for us!
Q: It must have been quite the honor to be a September call up. Was that something you were expecting or did it come as a surprise?
Taylor Williams: “It was a great honor being called up and having the opportunity to play at the highest level. As far as expectations, I think it was something that I expected of myself to achieve from a goal and confidence stand point. At that point in time it was something I felt there was a possibility of but it still came by great surprise.
I think for anyone that gets that call it is a surprising and surreal moment that you don’t ever expect to happen until it actually does. Ultimately it came by great surprise in that moment and it is a time I will cherish forever. I am most gratetful that I got to experience it with close teammates that I have come up through the system with that are also good friends.”
Q: In the five games you pitched, things went well. A sub two ERA, even in that small sample size, is exciting. What was going through your head when you walked out on to the mound to debut against the Reds?
Taylor Williams: “Honestly, I couldn’t tell you exactly what was going through my mind when I made the jog in from the bullpen. I think I might have blacked out a little bit because I was doing my best to keep my focus and be in the moment. I definitely felt nervous but I also felt extremely confident and prepared.
Those were feelings I remember having while warming up in the bullpen prior. I knew the nerves would be there, I was achieving something that I had dreamed of since I was five years old. I think excitement would be the best way to describe what was going through my head that first time out there. Nervous, prepared excitement.”
Q: When this moment happened you were fresh from Double A. Just from that jump, how did you prepare yourself for the difference in talent?
Taylor Williams: “I think the focus in preperation transitioning from one level to the next isn’t necessarily the difference in talent. The preperation comes in the work that you put in on a daily basis at the minor league level. Our Double A pitching coach Chris Hook does an unbelievable job of not allowing guys to skip steps in the process of that.
Our job is to perform in the minors, but ultimately it is to prepare ourselves as pitchers and players to perform at the big league level. I think the key for me was maintaining my confidence. Not trying to do too much. Trusting my ability and preperation while keeping my eyes and ears open once I got there. Talking to teammates and coaches especially in the bullpen also played a huge part in helping me mentally prepare.”
Q: Being a switch hitter is not very common among pitchers. What made you want to learn to hit from both sides?
Taylor Williams: “I don’t know if you can consider me much of a hitter any more. When I was growing up I always wanted to be a middle infielder. I always looked up to players that switch hit. Guys like Joey Cora, Rafael Furcal, Chipper Jones.
My Dad was the main influence on me learning. At a young age he would always throw wiffle balls to me in our yard. He would make me hit a bucket of balls left handed before I could hit any right handed which was my natural side at the time. As I got older I became more comfortable hitting left handed in games and it grew to be my strong side. I think it was something that brought more value to a players game and with the push of my Dad it became something I wanted to learn.”
Q: Okay, so you may not be much of a hitter anymore. But you have been used in different roles throughly the minors. Being a starter and reliever is a different mindset. How do you balance and still find success without a defined role?
Taylor Williams: “I think this definitely relates to the previous question. Similar to switch hitting, I think it is important to be a versatile pitcher and baseball player. Baseball is a game that requires the ability to adapt. Like you said, starting and relieving can be two different mindsets. I think the most important thing in balancing the two is embracing the role you are given and approaching it with confidence.
I have been fortunate enough to have experience doing both in the past. That has allowed me to better understand the difference in mindset. I have confidence doing both and I don’t think I’ve ever limited myself to being titled as one or the other in my head. At the end of the day your role as a pitcher is to get outs amd help your team win.”
Q: One last question, 2017 was your first full season back after the elbow issues that led to Tommy John. That’s a long road back, has that had any effect on how you approach playing the game now?
Taylor Williams: “The past three years and coming back from Tommy John surgery have no doubt had a huge impact on how I approach the game. Watching baseball and not being able to play for two seasons gave me completely new perspective, on baseball and life. It really allowed for me to slow life down for a little bit and focus on taking things one day/step at a time.
I think in the past sometimes I would worry too much about the future or overall outcome of things. Going through rehab while watching opportunity and time pass was difficult. I learned that waking up every single day with a positive attitude and a positive mindset toward life was a game changer for me. This allowed for me to segment my life better and be grateful for the things I did have.
Using that same approach now, I feel so much more passion and energy in everything that I do, especially baseball. The other most important thing it taught me was how to take care of myself/body. I learned a more well rounded approach to life and baseball.
Without an understanding of how your body works and what it needs is like fighting an uphill battle as an athlete. Learning how to prepare properly and fighting the daily battle of getting the most out of yourself are two things that have really stuck with me. I think overall the process allowed for me to approach every day with a positive mind and to control only the things I can control, my attitude and work ethic, let the rest take care of itself.”
We want to thank Taylor Williams for talking to us! We hope to see him back in a Milwaukee Brewers uniform as soon as possible.