Sunday, December 17, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Phillies 3B prospect Luke Williams talks Colombian League, Alfaro, more


Luke Williams, image- Jay Floyd
Third baseman Luke Williams is enjoying success this off-season in Colombia following a difficult-at-times regular season with Class A Lakewood.  The 21-year-old has posted a .297 batting average with two doubles, a home runs, 10 RBI and five stolen bases through 30 contests as a member of the Toros.  

In the midst of an eight game hitting streak, Williams is 12-for-29 (.414 avg) during that stretch.

A 3rd round draft selection of the Phillies in 2015, the righty hitting Williams tallied a .216 batting average with a home run, 27 RBI and 29 stolen bases in 115 games this year for the BlueClaws. 

Recently, I spoke with Luke who commented on the competition in Colombia, the difference in cultures, playing alongside Phils backstop Jorge Alfaro and plenty more.  

If all goes well, the experience playing abroad will really help Williams reach the top levels of the sport and he'll be making an impact on the lines on sports betting sites before long.

Read ahead for that full interview.  

-How would you describe the experience in Colombia?  Has it been what you expected?

My experience here in Colombia has been great. I'd have to say I expected it to be somewhat like this. I got to go to the Dominican Republic my first year for a few weeks so I had an idea of what I was going to be going through but unexpected things always seem to happen. It's been great getting to experience a country that is so different than the U.S. Obviously, it doesn't have some of the luxuries that the U.S. has but I've enjoyed having to adjust to the lifestyle here. One thing that cracks me up every time is when we (Americans) are walking down the street everyone just stares like they've never seen a white person before. It was strange at the beginning but we are used to it now. 

-Thoughts on the level of competition there?

The level of competition here is pretty good. You'll see some good young talent and a lot of older players who don't play in the states anymore but reached the higher minor league levels while they did.  So I have definitely been challenged while being here but I felt like I've stood my ground and have learned a lot. 

-Are there any big differences between baseball in the U.S. versus the games down there?  Anything that you like better there?

I'd have the say the game out here in Colombia is a lot more relaxed. I think that has to do a lot with the culture. Everything here seems to be done at a chilled and relaxed rate. It's "tranquillo" (chill in Spanish). One thing here is that you play to win. In the minors it's more emphasized on development, even though we still want to win. But here it's all about winning and if you don't win, the fans will let you know. It's nice to be in that kind of atmosphere again. 

-Does playing abroad give you a better understanding of what some of your organization mates go through, coming from foreign countries to play in the U.S.?  If so, how?

Yes, absolutely. I think the biggest thing is the language barrier. It makes things a lot harder when you can't communicate with the locals. Now I know a little Spanish, enough to get by. But it still is difficult. I can't have a full conversation with the people here. Another thing is adapting to the culture. I was culture shocked for the few first days, I'm not going to lie. The atmosphere, food, people, weather, etcetera are all things you just have to adjust to. And I think we (speaking of himself and teammate Casey Brown) have done a good job of doing that.

-How much of a help has Jorge Alfaro been either between the lines or just adapting to the culture or both?

He's been great in both aspects. It's been great to be able to be on the same team as him and to just pick his brain a little. We talk hitting all the time together just kind of tossing ideas back and forth. It's nice to also have someone you can have a conversation with in English. He also has helped us with the culture as well. The first few days we were here he was giving us information of on where to go, where not to go, and information like that. It has definitely helped to have someone like Jorge on our team. 

-Jorge’s a name that Phils fans know already and are excited about.  Is he just as popular down there in his native country?

I'd say he's even more popular here. Everyone knows who Jorge Alfaro is. If I'm not mistaken, I think he is the first big leaguer from his hometown of Sincelejo, so he's a big deal around here. People are always asking him for pictures and his signature and he always takes time out of his day to do that for them. 

-Most American guys that play in foreign leagues wrap up their time mid-season.  When is your time there done?  Are you coming home before Christmas or playing longer and what about Casey?

As of right now I will be playing the whole season. As for the other U.S. players I am not sure what their plan is. 

-What is the best part of this off-season so far?

For me, just the overall experience. There have been so many days where I just take a step back from everything and think to myself, "Wow, I'm living and playing baseball in Colombia. Who would have thought." My brother and his friend came and visited me about a month ago and all my brother could say to me was, "I can't believe you actually live in Colombia." I am just so thankful for what baseball has done for my life and the experiences I've had. It definitely hasn't been easy and I'd sure love be to be home with my loved ones for Christmas, but this is my life and I'm living a once in a lifetime experience.
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