Williams proving he could be Draft steal
Mets' 40th-round pick tearing it up in College World Series
OMAHA -- Seth Williams was home in his North Carolina apartment as the First-Year Player Draft was winding down earlier this month. Round after round passed, player after player had been selected, including five of his teammates, yet the senior outfielder hadn't heard his name called.
Finally, in the 40th round, the Mets made Williams the 1,214th selection. Though Williams, who says he models his game after Hall of Famer Ted Williams (no relation), didn't go until late, New York may have come away with one of the Draft's better-kept secrets. Williams is a career .299 hitter in four seasons for the Tar Heels, but as evidenced by his performance Sunday night in a College World Series opening-round victory over Louisiana State, he knows how to handle himself on the grand stage.
Williams had three hits and three RBIs in the Heels' 8-4 win, raising his season average to .323. He also now has a career-best 44 RBIs. When you're talking numbers and Williams, though, the ones that stand out the most are those he has compiled in the postseason. Williams has a career batting average of .371 (43-for-116) in the postseason with three homers and 19 RBIs. He's hit safely in 28 of 32 postseason games as North Carolina participates in its third consecutive College World Series.
"I've been here three years in a row now, so I'm a whole lot more relaxed," Williams said. "Every at-bat in the College World Series is a pressure situation. But when you have guys on base, you just try to shorten up and put the ball in play.
"I've played on the biggest stage for three years in a row now. I think if you can do it here, you can do it anywhere. You have 20,000 screaming people out there and you're doing it in front of them. It definitely helps to be able to perform in pressure situations. It really helps your confidence."
Williams is hoping that this will be the year the Tar Heels finally break through to become the first Atlantic Coast Conference school to win a CWS crown in more than five decades. North Carolina has lost in the championship round each of the last two years to Oregon State. So forgive Williams if he's not quite ready to start thinking about heading to Brooklyn of the New York-Penn League or Savannah of the South Atlantic League just yet.
When he does eventually sign with the Mets -- he hopes to do so quickly once the Tar Heels are done -- he'll provide a Minor League system desperately in need of restocking with a quality outfielder as well. Williams has committed only eight errors (two this year) in 238 collegiate games. He also has 14 assists and is eager to test his arm at Citi Field after it opens next season.
"New York is a scary place, but I'd love to play there," Williams said. "I'd love to play center field. When you're playing center field, you're in control. And I love covering the ground. If you can win a game with your glove or your bat, it doesn't matter.
"I can see myself in right field, too, but I haven't thought about it a lot yet, though, so I couldn't tell you what they [the Mets] are going to do. I talked to their area scout and they came calling. I've never been to New York before, though."
As for the Draft, Williams seems glad that the experience is over. He listened as his friends' names were called and admits that he did start to get a little scared when the process headed into the final rounds. After listening to most of the early part of the Draft, he turned it off as he got nervous and had to be informed by a friend that he had been selected by the Mets.
"Someone I knew called and said that I was on everyone's board," Williams said. "But I guess they figure I'm a senior and I'm going to sign for anything. I don't have many options."
Well, he has one option. Sign quickly and begin working with the Mets, who also drafted a possible future teammate in Stanford outfielder Sean Ratliff (fourth round). Williams has got the intangibles and the presence borne out of three years of grueling postseason play with North Carolina, experience that's valuable whether you're name is called in the fourth round or the 40th.
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.