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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Jimmy Williams, Blue Chip - 562

Read the revisited Jimmy Williams feature from September 2012: Jimmy Williams, Its Fullest 

College baseball recruiting can be a difficult game, University of Alabama baseball coach Barry Shollenberger wrote in 1984. A college coach can sign a high school prospect, only to lose them, and all the effort that went into signing that blue chip player, in the baseball draft.

That's what happened with Schollenberger signee Jimmy Williams. Williams, an Alabama native, signed with the Tide. A week later, Williams signed with the Dodgers, taken in the 10th round.

"Just like that," Shollenberger wrote in The Tuscaloosa News that June, "our recruiting efforts with Williams and all our expectations went down the drain."

Williams went on to a long professional baseball career, just not a major league one. Starting with rookie league Great Falls in 1984, Williams began a baseball career that wouldn't end until nearly 20 years later. It was a career that got the left-handed pitcher as high as AAA for parts of nine seasons, but never to the majors.

He didn't make AA until 1989, at Orlando, having been picked up by the Twins in 1987. He also made AAA Portland that year, returning for 1990. In December that year, Williams arrived with the Giants, completing a three-player deal that sent Steve Bedrosian to the Twins.

Williams stayed in AAA almost every year through 1998, spending time in the minor league systems of six different clubs, the Cubs, Expos, Mets, Orioles, Indians and Marlins. In the middle of 1998, he arrived at the Marlins' AAA home in Charlotte, after spending the first part of the season in Buffalo.

After a respectable Aug. 12 outing, Williams told The Rock Hill Herald his philosophy.

"I've just been going out there and trying to give some good innings," Williams told The Herald. "It's been tough sometimes. But I was in Buffalo and I wasn't pitching so I've asked for a chance to go out and pitch, whether it's starting or relieving."

After 1998 came four years in the independent Atlantic League, then a year in Mexico and Williams was finally done.

But he's suited up at least one more time, in 2006.

By that time, Williams had left the baseball field for the real world, according to The New York Daily News. ESPN was putting on a game for Black History Month, with old college and minor league players suiting up as Negro League teams, one of them the Birmingham Black Barons.

"It's an honor to be selected to play in a game like this and have this uniform on," Williams told The Daily News. "I had a chance to talk to a couple (former Negro Leaguers). They had so much fun playing the game. It wasn't about the money."
1990 CMC Tally
Cards Reviewed: 78/880 - 8.9%
Made the Majors: 46 - 59%
Never Made the Majors: 32 - 41%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 16
10+ Seasons in the Minors: 27

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