Glenn Williams interview

Glenn Williams

Glenn Williams – Twins 3B in 2005

Glenn David Williams was born on July 18, 1977 in Gosford, New South Wales, Australia. Glenn’s father Gary, was involved in the early stages of baseball in Australia and passed on his skills and love of the game. Both Father and son represented their home country in various international competitions.

In 1993 at the young age of 16, the switch-hitting Glenn Williams was offered and accepted a 1.3 million (Australian) dollar contract to play shortstop for the Atlanta Braves. Glenn spent 6 years in the Braves organization advancing to AA ball in the Southern league. Then, in the spring of 2000, unexpectedly, the Braves released Glenn but he was immediately signed by the Toronto Blue Jays. Williams spent the next five years in the Blue Jays organization with the last few years in AAA ball but the call to the big leagues still eluded Glenn. Glenn became a free agent after the 2004 season and signed with the Minnesota Twins in December of 2004. On June 5th of 2005 the Twins purchased Glenn’s contract from AAA Rochester and Glenn was finally on his way to the big leagues. Twins manager Gardenhire didn’t waste much time getting Glenn into his first big league game when he inserted Williams into a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at the Bank One Ballpark as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning with the Twins trailing 5-3 and two runners on with two outs. In his first big league at bat, Glenn got an infield single off Shawn Estes to load the bases. The Twins ended up scoring twice that inning to tie up the ball game and eventually won the game 9-8 with a run in the top of the ninth. Williams appeared in 11 more games and had at least one hit in each of those games. Then on June 28 at the Metrodome in his 13th big league game and what turned out to be his final big league game, Glenn singled in the fourth inning but hurt his shoulder on a pick-off play at first base. Williams eventually advanced to third but was then taken out for a pinch-runner. The Twins placed Glenn on the DL the next day. Glenn played for the Twins AAA Rochester team in 2006 and 2007 but would never again put on a big league uniform. Glenn left pro ball after the 2007 season and returned to his home country.

I should also note that in 2004, Glenn Williams was a key member of the Australian national baseball team that won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics. After his pro baseball career ended, Glenn studied and obtained a personal trainers certificate. Glenn then worked with a local cricket association helping with throwing and fielding and then moved into the High Performance Managers role with Baseball NSW in Sydney. In August of 2010 Glenn was named as the manager of the Sydney Blue Sox in the first season of the new Australian Baseball League. When asked what the league is like, Glen states that “the ABL is a 6 team league and we play 40 regular season games. Our team is made up of local amateurs and pros. Some teams in the league have either US or Asian imports. MLB is strongly involved in the league and thus far the league is going really well. It’s great to be involved at such an exciting time”.  It will be fun to follow the Blue Sox and see how they do.

Glenn Williams as skipper of the Sydney Blue Sox

JS – Glenn, you were born in Gosford, New South Wales, Australia, how did you get interested in baseball?

My dad played so I was around the game from a very early age. He played for our state and also Australia so I fortunate to be around him and other good players growing up.

JS – You signed with the Atlanta Braves as an amateur free agent at the age of 16 in 1993, how did that come about?

I was playing in Australia and was scouted there by several teams. I had the chance to play for the junior national team in 1992 and got a little more exposure as well. Before I turned 16 my family and I travelled to the US to determine whether it would be OK for me to leave and play baseball as a 16 year old. About a month after my 16th birthday I signed with the Braves.

JS – I have seen reports are that you received a 1.3 million (Australian) dollar bonus to sign with Atlanta, that is a lot of money for anyone, but for a 16 year old it is a fortune, what did you do with all that money?

I had some good advice from Mum and dad and I was sensible with my money. Invested it mostly.

JS – What position did the Braves think fit you the best?

I signed as a short stop but because of my size they saw me eventually moving to third base.

JS – At the age of just 21 after six years in the Atlanta minor league system the Braves released you prior to the 2000 season and you signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. What were your thoughts?

I was devastated at the time. I was coming off shoulder surgery and had worked really hard to make sure I was healthy for spring training. I was having a decent spring and they let me go. I was fortunate the Blue Jays picked me up and I started my new career with them. I was disappointed that the Braves let me go but fit straight in with the Blue jays and loved my time with them.

JS – You spent 2000-2004 in the Blue Jay system and still no call up to the big leagues, were you giving up hope of a big league career?

No I never gave up hope. I knew I had to continue to work hard and at some point people would like what I do and give me a shot. It was definitely discouraging and I thought I came close a couple of times with good years in Syracuse but not to be.

JS – You became a minor league free agent after the 2004 season and a couple of months later you signed with the Minnesota Twins who have a number of Australian players in their organization, did that play a role in you signing with Minnesota?

The Twins were one of the teams I considered signing with when I was 16. I knew there was a lot of Australians in the organization already but it was more the opportunity that attracted me to the Twins.

JS – The Twins called you up in early June of 2005; can you share with us the circumstances of that special day?

Rich Miller called me into the office after a game in Norfolk and told me I was going up. I had been playing well in Rochester and felt I was close. Brent Abernathy and Mike Ryan had been called up just days before I had and I thought that I was going to miss out again. I was excited and relieved at the same time.

JS – You made your major league debut in Arizona as a pinch hitter against Shawn Estes. Tell us how you remember your major league debut.

Brad Radke was starting and his spot to hit was due up 5th in the order. Gardy let me know that if his spot came up I would hit for Brad. There were 2 quick outs in the inning and it looked like I would have to wait for the next inning. I think it was Michael Cuddyer and Juan Castro who got hits in front of me and before I knew it I was heading up to pinch hit against Shawn Estes.

JS – You ended up getting a hit in every big league game that you ever played in, 13 in a row, before you separated your shoulder at the Metrodome on June 28 against the Kansas City Royals.  Tell us what happened that day.

Singled up the middle late in the game. We were up by 2 and it was a situation where we were looking at getting more runners in scoring position. I was anticipating being put in motion so trying to make sure I got a good lead. As I was getting my lead from first the pitcher picked off. I was a little off balance and landed awkwardly at first whilst diving back. I knew that I had hurt my should but was hoping it wasn’t too bad. The next pitch was hit down the left field line. I went 1st to 3rd but my shoulder was killing me and I knew it was serious.

JS – You spent 2006 and 2007 in the Twins minor league system before you became a free agent and walked away from pro baseball. Was it with regret or was it time for you to move on to another chapter in your life?

I had always promised myself that if I didn’t think I had a realistic chance of playing in the big leagues then I would move on. The opportunity to do that wasn’t presented to me after the 2007 season and although I felt I could still play and had something to offer, without the opportunity I decided to move on. It was disappointing to not be playing but I left my career without any regrets.

JS – Not too many people know that you hold a major league record, no other player in MLB history has appeared in more than three games and recorded at least one hit in each. You had a hit in each of your 13 big league games. When you lookm back on your career where you went 17 for 40 and finished with a career .425 batting average, how would you describe yourself as a baseball player? 

I had a pretty good run when I was with the Twins. I was fortunate to not only be called up but also that Gardy and the staff showed enough faith in me to give me an opportunity to play. There was a decent amount of luck involved in the 13 games I played but I am happy to have had the chance to play in the big leagues and do well. I wasn’t there long enough to really consider myself as a success at that level but proud of the fact that I stuck it out and persevered through a lot of adversity in my career and made the most of the opportunities when I got the chance to play in the big leagues.

JS – What did you do after you left pro ball?

I studied and obtained a personal trainers certificate. I did a little bit of training. I worked with a local cricket association helping with throwing and fielding and then moved into the High Performance Managers role with Baseball NSW here in Sydney.

JS – You were a key member of the 2004 Australian Olympic baseball team in 2004 that ended up winning the silver medal; tell us about that team and that experience.

Amazing experience. We had worked for 4 years to prepare for the Olympics and it was filled with some great performances for us. We went in believing we could win the gold medal and came within 1 win of doing it. It was special feeling though competing with your countrymen on the world stage and doing way better than anyone expected.

JS – On August 19 of 2010 you were named as the manager of the Sydney Blue Sox in the first season of the new Australian Baseball League. Was managing something you hoped to get involved with?Eventually. I love baseball and being around it. I am enjoying my role working with the younger players and to be given the chance to manage the ABL team here in Sydney was really special.

JS – Tell us about the ABL, how many teams are in the league, how many games do you play, where do the players come from, are the rules the same as here in the states, etc.?

It’s a 6 team league and we play 40 regular season games. Our team is made up of local amateurs and pros. Some teams in the league have either US or Asian imports. MLB is strongly involved in the league and thus far the league is going really well. It’s great to be involved at such an exciting time.

JS – I believe your season started in November, how long does it last?We play through to the end of January and then playoffs start.

JS – What kind of stadiums do you play in and what are the crowds like?We play out of the Olympic stadium at Blacktown. Our crowds have been good this year. I believe we are averaging about 1500 per game.

JS – So tell us Glenn, how are your Blue Sox doing, and what is harder, playing or managing and why?

The Blue Sox are doing well. We are currently 1.5 games out of first and right in the mix for a playoff spot. We have a couple of tough series leading into the playoffs and hopefully we can finish strong. I love the challenge of managing. Probably a little too early to tell which is harder. Managing is proving to be as frustrating as playing though at times.

JS – How would you compare the level of play in the ABL to play in the USA?

It varies from game to game I guess. A lot is dependant of the starting pitcher of the time. We had a game earlier this year where Chris Oxspring pitched against Travis Blackely. 2 former major leaguers facing off and throwing the ball well. The league has a really good mix of veteran and young players not only from Australia but also the US and Asia.

JS – Are players in the ABL full time baseball players or do they also have other jobs?

The majority of our guys work full time jobs and then come and play on the weekends.

JS – Are there any Americans playing in the ABL now Glenn?

Perth has some imports from Baltimore. Pittsburgh and Seattle have sent players to Adelaide.

JS – Australia is a big country, how do teams there travel to get from one city to another?

We fly everywhere. It is a big country and with the schedule it would make it difficult to travel any other way.

JS – Do you get major league scouts attending your games?

Absolutely. Some of the managers in league also work with pro teams. There are a lot of local guys who scout the league and it has proven a success so far. There has been a few players who have signed with pro teams in the US and Asia.

JS – Do you have any aspirations Glenn of coaching or managing in the major leagues?Ultimately that would be great. Just like playing coaching or managing is a long hard slog. I will never say never, but, at the moment I am happy to be at home and working with our young aspiring pros and trying to pass on some of my experience to them. If an opportunity presents itself in the US and the timing is right I may be back.

JS – When you look back on your time with the Minnesota Twins, what is your favorite memory?Having the opportunity to play alongside so many great players. Santana, Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Nathan, Hunter, Stewart and the list goes on. They were all stars and have had great MLB careers and they made me feel part of it from day 1. Playing for Gardy was a great experience also. His intensity and passion for the game and his players is evident each and every day.

JS – Thank so much for your time Glenn, we really appreciate it and good luck to you and the Blue Sox.

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