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After suffering an injury earlier this season, Nick Williams is making up for lost time.
The Galveston, Texas native has bounced back from a debilitating ailment to have a breakthrough season on the diamond in 2013.
Williams and his brother both grew up Texas Ranger fans.
Getting drafted last year out of Ball High School in the second round by his hometown team was the best thing Williams said ever happened to him.
â€śI grew up rooting for the Rangers,â€ť said Williams, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound left fielder. â€śI always followed by older brother and liked what he liked. Thatâ€™s what you do as a younger brother. I liked A-Rod growing up. Itâ€™s awesome getting drafted by home stateâ€™s team.â€ť
After spending last year with the short-season Arizona League Rangers, Williams is in his first Single-A season with the Crawdads.
Williams isnâ€™t new to North Carolina, though, after playing games for USA baseball in the state.
So far, Williams has enjoyed his time in the minor leagues.
â€śWeâ€™re living on our own,â€ť he said. â€śLast year, we stayed at hotels every day of the year. Now, we get to travel. Itâ€™s a little bit different because we are riding on buses, and the trips are way longer. It drains you, but it is fun. You are playing against guys who are a lot older because we are the youngest team in the league.â€ť
Williams started out the year for Hickory with a .303 batting average and seven home runs through 18 games, earning South Atlantic League Player of the Week honors.
Williamsâ€™ 19th game, however, nearly defined his season and almost his career.
He was placed on the seven-day disabled list after diving and landing awkwardly on his shoulder on a fly ball against Greensboro on April 24.
What Williams thought would be a week off due to injury ended up turning into nearly a month.
Time away from the Crawdads and baseball brought life into perspective for Williams.
â€śI learned not to take anything for granted because you never know when this game could end for you,â€ť he said. â€śDiving for a ball put me out for 30 games. It just makes you appreciate the game more.â€ť
Since returning to the Crawdads on May 24, Williams has been on a tear.
He is batting .313 with 88 hits, 14 doubles, 10 triples, 15 home runs and 57 RBIs in 69 games this season.
Hickory manager Corey Ragsdale is impressed with Williamsâ€™ numbers, especially with his one-month absence.
â€śThe way he was going early, if you put another month on his statistics, Nick is just as good as anybody,â€ť Ragsdale said. â€śHe is unbelievable. The kid is really talented. He is something special at plate. The kid has great hands. He has the ability to put the barrel on the ball. When he does, it is hit hard. When he backspins it, he can hit it as hard or as far as any of the other guys. He is just a freak when it comes to being in the box with the swing he puts on the ball and the hands that he has.â€ť
Itâ€™s not just Williamsâ€™ offensive numbers that impress his first-year manager.
â€śWhen you talk about him going out defensively, he is still learning the outfield routes,â€ť Ragsdale said. â€śHe can run and really throw. He is very, very talented. It is going to be a lot of fun to see him progress in the next few years.â€ť
With the Rangersâ€™ Double-A and Triple-A teams in Texas, Williams said he is even more motivated to make it back to his home state to play baseball.
â€śMy parents could just drive and see a majority of the home games,â€ť he said. â€śOur Double-A and Triple-A teams are in Texas. They are only four hours from my home.â€ť
While being motivated to work his way up the minor league system for a chance to play in front of his family, Williams is taking his time with the Crawdads in stride.
â€śI just go out and play,â€ť he said. â€śI never really have anything to prove. I just play the game and let my game show. I never try to show off. I donâ€™t feel like I need to do that.â€ťView more articles in: