(Photo Credit: Mick Lite)
During his six-year career in independent baseball, Eric Williams’ trademark was his patience. He drew nearly twice as many career walks as strikeouts and owns a career .449 on-base percentage. This year, however, Williams will have his patience tested from the dugout as he makes the transition onto Steve Brook’s coaching staff. Williams is the River City Rascals 2015 hitting coach.
Williams will make the move after he hung up his cleats following the 2014 season. He has spent the last four years of his playing career patrolling the outfield for the Rascals. His former teammates will now look to Williams for coaching after he was considered a leader in the clubhouse for years.
“I have the advantage of having played with most of our roster last year, so there is a level of familiarity already,” Williams explained. “Having built a rapport with our guys will really help get right into getting work done to get ready for the season. I’m hoping it will be a smooth transition having played with these guys last year.”
Familiarity with the Rascals is not the only edge Williams has after spending many years in the Frontier League. He believes that he knows the entire league well enough to help the transition to coaching.
“I think the advantage would be that I am familiar with a lot of the players, especially the pitchers. I am aware of their tendencies, so I can relay some knowledge that way. Also, I am familiar with the ballparks and how they play.”
Williams says that even though he found success with a patient approach at the plate, he led the Rascals with 90 walks last season, every player has a unique approach and he does not see the need to try to alter them.
“Every hitter is different and will have different approaches. I certainly do not expect everyone to have the same approach as I had. Some hitters will have to become more patient, and some will have to become more aggressive,” Williams said.
One of the most important responsibilities Williams will be tasked with is helping rookies transition from college to professional baseball. He believes that there are two significant challenges in the transition.
“The obvious change is metal to wood (bats). Hitting with wood is a little different and sometimes takes a bit to make the adjustment.”
The equipment change is not the biggest concern of Williams, though. The pitching is more talented at the high level.
“Also, professional pitchers know how to pitch, not just throw. Certain swings can get by in college baseball due to the metal bat and a lot of mistakes by the pitchers, but it will become a lot more challenging when pitchers mix it up more and control both sides of the plate.”
Coming off of a season in which the Rascals led the Frontier League in runs scored, the entire coaching staff is optimistic about the offense. Williams does not see too much he needs to change, but he is prepared to make the transition to the dugout and help the Rascals hitters find success all year long.
“Our hitters had a lot of success last year, so there is much need for major changes; they know what they’re doing for the most part and have had a lot of success over their careers. I will be there to help them: talk, make tweeks to their swings, and maybe help with the mental side more than changing anyone’s approach.”