Houma native Justin Williams just keeps on shinin’ in the world of professional baseball.
The Terrebonne High School graduate and member of the Tampa Bay Rays farm system has enjoyed a big week for the Montgomery Biscuits, further positioning himself as one of the top prospects in the organization.
Last Tuesday night, Williams launched a game-winning home run into orbit in the top of the ninth inning, which broke a 4-all tie and gave Montgomery the lead for good in a 6-4 win.
A day later, he was back at it, reaching base twice in five plate appearances while recording another RBI.
“It’s all just been really good, man,” Williams told The Times on Friday night after another two-hit performance. “We are really just bonding as a team so
well, and we are playing championship baseball. It’s fun. We’re hungry to see where it goes from here as we all try and march toward our goal of becoming Major League Baseball players.”
Williams has definitely made strides toward making that lofty wish a reality.
He’s widely regarded as one of the top young players in Tampa’s system — a player who the team is expecting to count on heavily in the future.
Still just 21 years old, Williams is listed as the No. 10-ranked prospect in Tampa’s farm system, which is regarded as one of the top in Major League Baseball.
In spring training, Williams played a couple games for the Rays’ Major League club, suiting up alongside Evan Longoria, Chris Archer, Tim Beckham and the team’s other players.
Williams said playing with the big club during those weeks of spring training were moments he’s never going to forget – moments of motivation he said he thinks back upon every, single day.
Williams said when he put on the Tampa Bay Rays jersey, he stopped, looked at himself in the mirror and then took a moment to soak it all in.
He said he quickly snapped out of it, though, because he said his work isn’t complete until he can wear that uniform every day.
“It looked and felt really good,” Williams said of wearing the MLB uniform. “To me, it was a feeling like all of my hard work is finally getting recognized.”
Williams said while with the MLB team this spring, he was a sponge, absorbing as much knowledge as he could from all of the top players in the organization.
He said he watched closely the ways guys like Longoria and others handled their business on a day-to-day basis.
Williams said the thing those guys have that many others don’t is an ability to push past failure and continue forward – something he said a lot of minor league players struggle with because of the pressure they feel to compete at a peak level.
“I learned that playing in the Major Leagues isn’t all about just hitting the baseball,” Williams said. “I’ve learned that this game comes with a lot of failure and that the ones who can handle the emotional roller coaster that comes with the game are the ones who are most likely to last and withstand the test of time.”
Williams is doing his best to showcase that learned ability so far in the minor leages.
At the end of spring training, he went back to the Biscuits at the AA-level, which is two steps below the MLB.
Williams played for the Biscuits for 39 games to end last season, batting .250 with six home runs and 28 RBI.
This season, he’s been better, owning a .278 average with two home runs and 7 RBI in 13 games to start the season.
Williams started the season hot, registering seven hits in his first five games. But then he cooled down, going hitless over three-straight games to see his average fall from .333 to .219.
Then he showcased that ability to overcome failure.
In the past week, Williams has been on fire, owning a five-game hitting streak from April 16-20 to get his average back up to .278.
In that stretch, Williams has also showcased his power, including the deep home run to win the game.
He said his focus now is to keep pushing so that he can become less streaky and a more consistent slugger.
“I’m just trying every day to become a more complete player,” Williams said. “I’m just focused on continuing to play the game the right way every chance that I get.”
He said he’s gotten feedback from the Rays throughout spring training and into the season, and he said the club is happy with his progression.
Now, Williams just needs to keep going and try and find a way to call Tampa home – hopefully sooner, rather than later.
“They tell me all of the time to continue learning and continue to get better,” he said. “They’re a great organization to play for. They do their best to make sure that we have the tools we need to succeed.”
Houma native Justin Williams rounds the bases during a spring training game this season.