CLEARWATER, FL. — William Carmona knows what it’s like to fight.
The native of the Dominican Republic, and now a Philadelphia Phillies’ prospect, came to the United States when he was only a year old and has already beaten the odds in a place many are unaware has its challenges.
“When people think of Long Island, they think of a rich vibrant area, but where I’m from it’s the suburbs version of the Bronx or Brooklyn, it’s just a little more spaced out,” said the corner infielder. “Everything you see in a poverty stricken city you find in Hempstead.”
Carmona could have easily found himself in trouble, but managed to steer clear.
“There’s poverty, a lot of drugs, a lot of crime, a lot of problems. My high school had a low graduation rate, fighting, and gangs.
”The fact that I’m here, I’m completely blessed because a lot of people wish they had this opportunity and me coming from Hempstead is even more because any other day I could be doing what they’re doing.”
The 22-year-old got into sports at an early age and did well at everything he played, including basketball, football, and track, but quickly recognized that baseball was his best.
“I became serious about baseball at the age of around 10 or 11, when I realized that I might have a future,” he stated. “So I started to work harder at it.”
However, it took a little time before his abilities were recognized.
“I live in the Northeast, so baseball isn’t that prevalent,” he said. “You have to work harder to get people to see you. If you work hard enough good things will happen.”
Despite growing up in an underprivileged neighbourhood, he credits his father Williams, who spent two seasons in the Toronto Blue Jays’ minor league system, with much of his success.
“To this point he’s taught me so much about baseball,” he said at the Philadelphia Phillies’ minor league complex. “He’s the reason I’m here.”
He graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in finance.
Good things have already happened to him. He is Stony Brook University’s all-time leader in hits and runs batted in, and his clutch hitting guided his Seawolves to the College World Series.
He then dominated the Gulf Coast League in his first professional season, finishing fourth with a .348 average, while his slugging percentage (.533) and OPS (.925) both ranked third. He was later promoted to the Lakewood Blue Claws, the Phillies’ Single A affiliate, but was not as successful.
“The higher you get into baseball, the smarter the pitchers are so they started pitching me differently,” he said. “I started to swing at pitchers’ pitches instead of pitches I wanted to swing at and then you fall back in the count and the percentages fall lower and lower in your favour, and that’s when you start to struggle.”
He has come to the Phillies’ multi-diamond complex in excellent shape, shedding 26 pounds and appears poised to have a strong season with the Blue Claws.
“I feel like my strengths are my arm strength, power, ability to hit overall. I think I have to work on my agility and speed.”
Asked if he ever stops to admire one of his long balls, he smiled and said “very few because it’ll look bad if it doesn’t go out and because I’m not that fast I at least have to get to second, so I may admire it but I’m also hustling out of the box.”
As a child, he cheered for the New York Yankees.
“I live in New York, so everyone roots for either the Yankees or Mets.”
Carmona also has many rooting for him