The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

New Astro Williams proud of Hawaiian heritage, eager to help others avoid mistakes he made

  • Print

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - On a recent day at Astros camp, Hawaiian music was playing in the clubhouse and there was Jerome Williams, proudly wearing a hat showing the flag of his home state.

There have been 38 players in major league history who were born in Hawaii, according to Baseball Reference, though not all of them are Native Hawaiians. Fellow Houston pitcher Scott Feldman was also born in Hawaii, but his parents moved there a couple of years before his birth when his FBI agent father got a job there.

Williams, a 30-something mentor to the young Astros, was born to Hawaiian mother and an African-American father who grew up in Brooklyn and moved to Hawaii in his late teens because of his affinity for the television show "Hawaii Five-0."

He said people are often surprised when they learn he is Hawaiian.

"Every time I go to a new team or meet new people the first thing they see is the outside," said Williams, whose Hawaiian accent is noticeable only on certain words. "I tell them I'm from Hawaii and they say: "What, was your dad in the military?'"

In 2013, there were fewer than 10 major leaguers who were born there, notably Boston's Shane Victorino and Kurt Suzuki, now with Minnesota.

"That fraternity is so tight, we're always going to be tight-knit," Williams said. "We always try to support each other. I know every last one of them."

He also tries to help younger guys who are drafted out from Hawaii because he knows the unique difficulties of adjusting to life away from there.

"It's tough for kids coming from Hawaii because it's so isolated from the mainland U.S.," Williams said. "When we come to the mainland it's real fast for us. You have to grow up real quick and some kids can't handle that because in Hawaii it's so laid back."

It was a lesson that Williams learned the hard way.

The right-hander was a first-round pick of the Giants in 1999 and he made his major league debut four years later at just 21. He went 17-14 with a 3.93 ERA over the next three seasons. He was then traded and had a solid year with the Cubs before struggling in 2006 and seeing his ERA balloon to 7.30. He signed with the Nationals in 2007 and was released after going 0-5 in six starts.

He was overweight, had developed a reputation as being lazy and couldn't get another major league gig.

"When I was coming up with the Giants I was a pretty good player, I was a top prospect a couple of years," he said. "Got to the big leagues at the young age of 21. Then I fell into a mode where I didn't think anyone could take my spot and I didn't even work at it."

"That was the downfall for me," he said. "I didn't take advantage of everything and I didn't do it right."

He spent the next four years bouncing around in the Independent League, playing winter ball in various countries and even pitching in Taiwan one year. It was a trying time for Williams, who has four children.

"I wanted to give it up but I couldn't," he said. "I wanted my kids to see me succeed instead of seeing me fail."

He started 2011 in the Independent League, but by August he'd joined the Los Angeles Angels and appeared in his first major league game since May 15, 2007. He went 4-0 with a 3.68 ERA in 10 games that season to earn a job in 2012. He also spent last season with the Angels before signing as a free agent with Houston.

"I just told myself if I do get back to where I need to be I was going to do it right," he said. "And I've been doing it right ever since."

Manager Bo Porter knows that Williams will be helpful to Houston's young pitchers.

"You can learn a lot from someone else if you're willing to listen," Porter said. "Him sitting down and having some of those conversations with some of our younger guys, of being a former prospect and going through all the different changes that he had to go through to be where he's at in his career, I think it's very beneficial for our younger guys to have that kind of experience sitting on our ball club."

Though he's one of the most veteran players on Houston's roster, Williams believes he can gain as much from the youngsters as they can from him.

"I always say that the day that I don't learn something new is the day I quit," he said. "I'm still here, so obviously I don't know everything and I'm still going to learn. I'm 32 and I've been playing for a long time, but I still can learn things."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: Publicity

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A water lily in full bloom is reflected in the pond at the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden Tuesday afternoon. Standup photo. Sept 11,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)
  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100615 - Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 The Mane Attraction - Lions are back at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Xerxes a 3-year-old male African Lion rests in the shade of a tree in his new enclosure at the old Giant Panda building.  MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Who do you think will win NHL's Calder Trophy for rookie of the year?

View Results

Ads by Google