Terrebonne High School junior Justin Williams isn’t easily rattled on the baseball diamond – it’s where he feels most at home.
This summer, that might change. One of baseball’s most prestigious parks awaits.
Williams was selected to participate in the Under Armour All-American Game, which will take place in August.
That game will be played in world-famous Wrigley Field. The Terrebonne junior said he already has butterflies thinking about what it will be like to lace ‘em up in the historic major league park, which serves as a dream destination to millions of kids (including Williams) who grow up watching the sport.
“I’m going to be nervous as heck,” Williams said with a laugh. “I won’t even lie. I already know I’m going to be nervous. I can try to relax, but it’s just the atmosphere, you know? It’s Wrigley Field. If you don’t get a little antsy about that, you probably don’t love the game enough.”
To be invited to the Under Armour game, one must be an elite-level talent.
Williams is just that. He’s firmly established himself as one of the best players in the Tri-parish area with a vast array of strength, speed, versatility and determination.
“He’s just a phenomenal athlete, who is doing phenomenal things on the baseball field,” Terrebonne coach Gus Brown said. “That pretty much sums it up. He has the tools to play at the next level and even beyond that. The sky is the limit for him. … There’s no telling how good he might be.”
“He’s such a big asset to our team,” Tigers senior second baseman Austin Guin added. “His hitting, his fielding, everything he brings to our team just does so much to keep us in games and give us a better chance to win it.”
Start with offense – that’s where Williams strikes the most fear into his opponents.
The 6 foot, 2 inch, 200-plus pound standout can be anything Terrebonne needs on a given day offensively.
Williams can hit for average. He can also hit for power.
Once on base, he can steal with ease.
In Terrebonne’s win Thursday against H.L. Bourgeois, all of those traits were on display, as Williams slugged a home run, recorded two sharp, line drive singles and stole multiple bags.
“I was in a slump, honestly for about two or three weeks earlier in the season,” Williams said. “But I talked to my dad and he told me to just keep swinging it. He told me the truth. He said, ‘It’s baseball. This happens to everyone,’ so I stuck with it. And I’m starting to see some good results.”
“He really opens up everything for our whole lineup,” Guin said. “When he’s on, they pitch around him. That gives everyone else on our team the chance to see better pitches to hit.”
With Williams serving as a terror with the bat, he’s also proving to be a versatile defender for Terrebonne.
On most days, Williams is a shortstop of third baseman for the Tigers.
Lately, he’s adding centerfield to his repertoire – the position he believes he will play in college.
Against the Braves, he played all three throughout the seven inning affair.
“We’ve moved him around a little bit here or there and he’s been very receptive to that,” Brown said. “That speaks a lot to his character.”
“I’m here to do whatever for my team,” Williams said. “Wherever they need me, that’s where I’ll be.”
Williams’ work on the field speaks for itself. But it’s the work he does off it that allows him to etch his place at the top.
Brown said Williams has a tireless work ethic and is a kid who “eats and sleeps,” baseball.
With rain having washed out most of last week’s schedule, Terrebonne was forced to play four days in a row.
Brown said he could see in his standout’s eyes that Williams was “loving it.”
“He’s just a big kid having fun on the baseball diamond,” Brown said. “He wouldn’t mind playing every day of the week. We played the four games and you could see he was just so excited. His hand was actually swollen up a little bit, but he gutted it out and he continued to play. He wouldn’t let me go get him out.”
Where Williams gets that go-getter work ethic is simple. He said he spent countless hours as a child hitting baseballs with his father and older brother Mike, who is currently a collegiate baseball player.
From that, Justin said he became “almost addicted” to the sport, calling it the love of his life.
“He’ll hit balls until his hands are bleeding from the blisters,” Brown said. “He’s one of those kinds of kids. He’s an absolutely tireless worker.”
“They do bleed sometimes – literally,” Williams said when asked about his coach’s claim.
He pulls off his batting glove to show off several blisters lined up around his palms.
“This is just what I love to do,” Williams said. “When I get on the field, it’s just hard for me to leave. It’s my passion.”
Away from the baseball diamond, Williams also lights up about his second love – the outdoors.
Williams is an avid fisherman and hunter.
He said he spends countless hours with a rod and reel in his hands, trying to lure in some of Terrebonne’s biggest lunkers.
“I love to bass fish,” the baseball prospect said. “It’s fun. It’s like a challenge. It definitely is something I love to do.”
Williams lights up when asked about his biggest catch to date – a 3-pound largemouth bass.
“He put up a good fight,” Williams boasts. “I hooked him and I thought I was like stuck on a rock, so my line just went crazy. But I got him in.
“That was tough. That’s not harder than hitting a curveball, though.”
One thing Williams will not have to fish for is his future team – he already knows exactly who that will be.
The Terrebonne junior committed to LSU months ago – a pledge he said will not be broken.
Williams chose the Tigers because of their rich tradition as a baseball school.
“It’s just an amazing baseball team, a good atmosphere, a great field and just great equipment for the players,” Williams said. “It’s just a real baseball school. That’s something I like. They just seem to care about it more than other places do.”
The relationship is mutual – the Tigers like Williams an awful lot, too.
The junior said LSU coach Paul Mainieri offered high praise when the Tigers formally offered him a scholarship.
“They said that when I hit the ball, it doesn’t sound like anyone else when they hit the ball,” Williams said. “And they said that they liked that my hands were so fast.”
But LSU may not be alone in their pursuit of the Terrebonne standout once high school ends.
Williams said he understands that he may be selected in the Major League Baseball draft once his Terrebonne days come to a close.
He said if that time comes, he would think about the decision and thoroughly discuss it with his family.
But Williams added that the Tigers will always be a huge favorite in the race.
“Ultimately, I’m going to go wherever my life takes me,” Williams said. “But I do want to go to college. I want to get a degree. College is something I really want to experience. It’d take a lot to push me away from that.”
Terrebonne High School standout Justin Williams poses in front of the outfield fence at the Tigers’ field. Williams is off to a strong start to the season.