Outfield or mound, Williams just wants to play ball

Vancouver native happy with performance at Blue Jays showcase

His team finished with just one win in four games, but at Tournament 12, it’s all about showcasing yourself and Keenan Williams feels he’s done well.

Held in Toronto, the inaugural Tournament 12 brought well over 200 of Canada’s best college-eligible amateur baseball players to the Rogers Centre to show them off to scouts from schools and major-league ball clubs.

Twelve teams, including one representing Williams’ home province of British Columbia, formed the field at the tournament, hence the name.

Though he didn’t pitch too well in August at the 2013 Canada Games in Sherbrooke, Que.—three earned runs in an inning of relief for B.C. in an 11-9 loss to Quebec—Williams is pleased with his performance in Toronto.

“I think I did pretty good,” said Williams, 17, of Vancouver. “I was a little bit nervous because I felt I had to redeem myself.”

In addition to pitching, Williams is also used as an outfielder.

He says he prefers pitching because that’s where he’s had the most success, but Rick Elstone, the manager of Williams’s youth team, the North Shore Twins of the British Columbia Premier Baseball League, says he is a strong outfielder as well.

“Over our time, he hasn’t pitched lots with the senior Twins primarily because his arm has been kind of tender, so we never put him on the mound for any length of time,” says Elstone, in a telephone interview. “His strength is his outfield play.

“He can hit, he can run, he’s fast, he’s got good sense on the base paths. In terms of bang for your buck, we found him, as a position player, more important to us then pitching at this point.”

Including Wiliams, the Twins sent seven players to Tournament 12, which is a great source of pride for Elstone and his team, since they haven’t always enjoyed such exposure.

“I’ve been around for 14 years with this squad and there were years that were pretty lean, where we placed no guys on any select team or no guys to the Canadian Junior National Team or anything like that,” says Elstone. “Now, it’s becoming regular that our guys are getting the nod.

“The college and the pro scouts are out on a regular basis, it’s huge for us in terms of creating an environment where the kids want to come out and play for the Twins.”

Larson Bauck is the head coach of the Twins and has been a positive influence on Williams. The latter says his coach has made him into a better hitter, but Elstone says Williams learned a lot more from him than just how to swing a bat.

“Some of the kids will fall asleep on you if you let them, they have a bit of a lazy streak in them, but Keenan, I can’t think of a situation where Keenan hasn’t come out, whether it’s practice or the game, and given it his all,” says Elstone.

“We were talking about that a couple weeks ago, about the guys that come out to play regardless of whether it’s a big game, a nothing game.

“These nothing games in tournaments, a lot of the kids go to sleep, but not Keenan. He’s there to play all the time. Some of that comes from Lars because Lars is an adrenaline guy.”

As with any young player, Williams needs to improve on his consistency and his discipline at the plate, says Elstone.

Williams would like to improve on his pitching velocity, but as an outfielder, he just wants to get stronger.

“A lot of the guys on the national team, they’re 6-2, 6-3, huge guys,” says Williams. “My size isn’t really an asset of mine compared to them because they’re big guys.”

Just as he’s unsure of which position he’ll end up playing, Williams is also not sure what the immediate future holds in store for him.

Despite the uncertainty, he does not seem worried one bit.

“I’d like to go to college,” he says. “I’ve talked to a few schools, but I’m just going to see how it goes. I haven’t really looked into a program yet, but I’ll just wait and see.

“It would be nice to get selected in the draft. That would be huge, that’s probably every kid’s goal, but if that doesn’t work out, I can always go to school.”

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