August 17, 2015
The realization arrived at age 16.
Nick Williams, from Galveston, Tex., was competing in the Perfect Game National Showcase in Georgia. Jake Thompson was a sophomore in the suburbs of Dallas.
Williams went 4-for-4 in one of the summer games. All home runs.
That spring Thompson pitched seven innings in a game for Rockwall-Heath High School. He struck out 18.
They are teammates now with Reading, having been assigned there from the Cole Hamels trade. They had been playing AA ball earlier this season with the Frisco RoughRiders in the Texas League – about 25 miles north of Dallas.
“I know the Phillies are struggling a bit and they’re rebuilding’’ Williams said. “When I got traded I told my parents, ‘Man, I’m coming here with a plan to try and make a September call-up.' Maybe it will happen. It could happen in a week, a month, a year; I wouldn’t be surprised. I accept the challenge.’’
Williams, 21, was drafted by Texas in the second round of the 2012 draft. Thompson, also 21, was also a second-rounder in the same draft: by Detroit. Last summer he was traded to Texas.
The duo is a major reason the Reading Fightin Phils entered Monday night’s game in first place in the Double-A Eastern League.
On Saturday Thompson picked up his third straight win for Reading. His ERA is 1.80 in 20 innings pitched. He has struck out nine, walked eight and allowed 11 hits.
Williams, batting leadoff, is hitting .370 in his last eight games. In his first game with Reading he had two hits, and the next night went 4-for-4 with two home runs. Sunday he scored the team’s first run after a massive triple in a 2-0 victory. On Friday he drove in the deciding runs with a two-run single. He’s hit three homers, has eight extra-base hits and scored 13 runs in 12 games.
Both had college offers; Williams to Texas A&M and Thompson to TCU.
Within the next year or so the Phillies will be glad they matriculated in the minors.
Williams, after going 0-for-4 Saturday, was looking at sooner than later.
“I know the Phillies are struggling a bit and they’re rebuilding’’ the outgoing outfielder said outside the visitor’s clubhouse at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton. “When I got traded I told my parents, ‘Man, I’m coming here with a plan to try and make a September call-up.’
“Maybe it will happen. It could happen in a week, a month, a year; I wouldn’t be surprised. I accept the challenge.’’
As for those 0-for-4 outings, that’s yesterday’s news.
“That doesn’t bother me anymore. I know I’m a great hitter,’’ he said. “I know I’m gonna’ hit. I don’t stress over those things anymore.’’
Thompson smiled when told Williams’ comments.
“He’s the kind of guy who likes to keep it light, and he’s usually happy,’’ the 6-4 righty said. “He just goes out and plays, and he’s pretty impressive. He puts wood on the ball that a lot of good hitters can’t, and he shows you power whenever he gets hold of one. He’s one of those rare five-tool guys.’’
As for his own timeline to the big leagues, Thompson is low key.
“The Phillies will dictate when I’m ready. I’ll just go out and try and do my job,’’ he said.
“He throws any pitch on any count. He doesn’t care,’’ Williams said. “When he’s on the mound he feels in charge. He led the Texas League in strikeouts. He’s not afraid to come at you, and I think that’s what makes him real good. He’s a cool dude; from a nice area in Dallas.’’
Thompson grew up 10 minutes from a lake in the town of Rockwall. The youngest of three (Zak is 28, Jessica 30), his father is a high school assistant principal and his mother a paralegal.
Although they didn’t know each other before Frisco, Thompson knew about Williams. They played for the same travel team based in Houston, but not in the same season.
While it seems hotter in the Dallas area than it down in Galveston, Williams said it’s much more uncomfortable where he grew up due to humidity.
Like Thompson, being able to cool off wasn’t too far away. Williams lived one block from the Gulf of Mexico. A two-minute bike ride to the beach.
“Lot of boogie-boarding and swimming,’’ Williams said with a laugh. “Never surfed, but my senior year of high school, when classes were done by noon, we hit the beach.’’
So did his older brother Rudy (age 27), and now too his much younger siblings Seth (10) and Jonah (8). Their father is a lawyer. Their mother used to work full time at a hospital, but with the younger children she now does volunteer work at their school.
“I think she does the school thing because she misses me a lot,’’ Williams said with a laugh. “She’s around her younger sons a lot more now.’’
Gifted as an athlete, Williams wanted to play in the NFL, like his uncle. Robert Williams played for the Dallas Cowboys. A running back at Baylor, he was switched to defensive back in his lengthy pro career. Uncle Robert has two Super Bowl rings.
“I was gonna’ take the A&M scholarship for baseball and walk on for football,’’ Williams said his college plans at the time. “When Texas drafted me, I had to go.’’
Just like he knew at 16. Just like the kid from the Dallas suburbs.