By WES BLAKEY
COBB COUNTY, Ga. – Despite his size, Brian Williams, a junior third baseman for the Lassiter High School baseball team, shows extraordinary potential, attracting the attention of colleges, scouts and his coach.
The sun is shining through the left field trees onto the outfield of the Lassiter High School baseball field. It’s just a quarter until 5 p.m. as Williams stretches with his team during pregame warm-ups. Once the team completes their daily stretching routine, Williams caps it off with a handstand push-up, something he dubs “a weird superstition, just because I can.”
Hitting the baseball seems to come just as easily to the 5-foot-10, 190-pound infielder as his pregame handstand push-up. Williams has not produced a batting average below .350 since manning the hot corner for the Lassiter Trojans. He spent his freshman and sophomore seasons playing for the junior varsity team before earning the starting third baseman role for the varsity team his junior year.
“My summer ball coach did a really good job recruiting for me,” Williams said. “I was talking to Kennesaw State, East Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas and Michigan, but none of these schools show any interest in me as a player right now because my height is not project-able.”
Williams has been having an excellent senior season so far, as the Lassiter Trojans have gotten off to a good start with a 12-4 streak. He is hitting near the .450 mark with two home runs, and has driven in around 30 total runs.
Williams rips a line drive to right field for an RBI single at Etowah High School. March 16, 2017. (Photo credit: Wes Blakey)
“This year’s team at Lassiter is the best it has been since I’ve been in high school,” Williams said. “We have a pitching staff that comes out every day and give us the opportunity to win every game, and we have the best line-up in the state one through nine. End of discussion. All we have to do is continue to hit and we are going to win.”
One thing Lassiter’s head coach, Kyle Rustay, pointed out was Williams’ willingness to do whatever he can do to help the team win.
“He cares more about winning than personal statistics and accolades,” Rustay said.
Williams walks back to the plate after a quick talk with Coach Rustay during a mound visit at Etowah High School. March 16, 2017. (Photo credit: Wes Blakey)
Rustay says Williams is a really humble kid who is extremely coach-able and wants to improve as much as he can.
“His work ethic is the biggest thing that has separated him from his peers,” Rustay said. “I don’t want to say it separates him from his teammates entirely, however, because they are a very hard-working group overall.”
Middle infielder and right-handed pitcher, Matt Christian, said that Williams is one of his best friends.
“He’s a hard-working kid and a talented young man,” Christian said. “I remember last year in the sixth inning, in a game against Walton, when someone hit a chopper, he jumped in the air at third base and threw a kid out at home while still in the air.”
These are just a few players under six feet tall that have exhibited success at the major league level. Rustay mentioned Hall of Famer, Craig Biggio, as being comparable to Williams.
“He may be a bit undersized, but he is capable of taking over a game and doing a lot of things to help the team be successful,” Rustay said.
Williams, however, said he tries to model his game by watching the 6-foot-3 All-Star third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles, Manny Machado.
Rustay said that another thing that makes Williams stand out is his positive attitude.
“He doesn’t get down on himself when something doesn’t go his way,” Rustay said. “He just looks to the next at-bat or the next defensive play.”
Williams said his favorite part about the game of baseball is that there is always another game to be played.
“If something goes wrong one at bat, or one play in the field, or you just have a bad day overall, chances are there is going to be another at-bat that game or another play in the field,” Williams said. “There is always another game to be played the next day.”
Rustay said Williams plays the game at a really high level and isn’t afraid to push the envelope, both offensively and defensively.
“Aggressive, fearless and selfless,” Rustay said when describing Williams as a player.
Williams does his best Chipper Jones impression (1:10 mark) as he makes a nice play at third base throwing off the wrong foot at Etowah High School. March 16, 2017. (Photo credit: Wes Blakey)
Currently, Williams is verbally committed to Birmingham Southern College to play baseball at the next level. He has offers from Emmanuel College and East Georgia State College, but Augusta University and Cal State University, Northridge have also been in contact with him.
“I met a Toronto Blue Jays scout this past fall at a camp, and he watched me play all weekend,” Williams said. “He decided to approach me that Sunday and ask me how I did last high school season, and during the summer. I told him I hit around .400 with a fielding percentage of about .950.”
Earning the accolade of a 2016 All-State Honorable Mention behind Josh Lowe, the 13th overall pick in last years MLB Draft and Carter Kieboom, the 28th overall pick, Williams garnered some interest from a Pittsburgh Pirates scout whom he met while watching a game.
“He told me he had seen me play last high school season, and he liked what he saw and would be around,” Williams said.
Rustay has spoken with the coaches from Mercer, North Georgia, Florida Gulf Coast and Florida Southwestern junior college about Williams.
“I keep telling these coaches that if they add him to their roster, they are getting an absolute steal,” Rustay said. “He’s super athletic and can do whatever you need on both sides of the ball.”
Williams said he has been playing baseball since he was six years old and doesn’t plan stopping anytime soon. For the time being, he said that his goal is staying focused on the season and getting the Lassiter baseball program back to where it should be as state champions.