Star-Bulletin Sports

Sunday, September 9, 2001


Williams turning
heads at 19

By Al Chase

JEROME WILLIAMS discovered the Double-A Texas League hitters were mature in their approach at the plate, but the 19-year-old right-hander from Waipahu High School accepted the challenge and thrived in his third season of professional baseball.

"I learned a lot of new things. The hitters are more patient at this level and I had to be more patient," said Williams, the 39th overall selection in the 1999 draft by the San Francisco Giants.

"I learned to really pitch rather than just throw like I did in the California League (in 2000). Overall, I thought the season was pretty good."

Williams said a suggestion made during spring training by Giants pitchers Russ Ortiz and Shawn Estes helped a lot this year. They talked about studying batters and keeping notes on what they like to do, what pitches they like, etc. Williams put all this information on his laptop. He went a step further and kept notes on the umpires, what they called a strike and what they didn't.

"This helped the mental part of my game. I really had to study the batters. Ortiz and Estes said the information would be useful later, because I could be pitching against these same guys in the major leagues," Williams said.

Jack Hiatt, San Francisco's director of player development, said the jump from the California League to the Texas League is the biggest in the Giants farm system.

"We have three Class A teams, and those players filter to one 23-man roster at the Double-A level," Hiatt said. "Jerome was pitching against good players and his team (Shreveport) was young, didn't hit or field that well.

"We didn't get Jerome many runs. It wasn't because he didn't have good stuff. His fastball comes in at 93 and he throws it in and out. He has a breaking ball he throws for strikes when necessary. He has a big breaking ball and a sharper, hard one.

"He was the youngest pitcher in the Texas League. What he did at age 19 is unheard of. He has a great feel for pitching and he does it easily. His fastball at 93 is only 80 percent of his velocity."

Williams finished with a 9-7 record and a 3.95 earned run average, considered very solid in the hitter-friendly Texas League. He figures six of his 23 starts were bad. A couple of those came early, causing his ERA to balloon to 6.52.

"My pitching coach, Bert Bradley, said I really didn't look ready, that I wasn't focused and was just going through the motions," Williams said.

When the opposite was true, he had purpose and life on every pitch. For the third consecutive season, Williams allowed fewer hits (116) than innings pitched (130). He struck out 84 while walking just 34 batters, a good ratio. He also learned he didn't have to strike out every batter.

"You want your teammates to make the plays. You have to have confidence in them," Williams said.

One play the 6-foot-3 righthander made about a month ago caught everyone by surprise. He walked into the stands during a game and proposed to his girlfriend, Chastity Fuentes. She accepted.

"It was bound to happen. We haven't set a date, but it probably will be after I reach the big leagues," Williams said. "It's all on me now. If I do good and get to the bigs, we'll get married. Otherwise we'll have to wait. She understands I really want to concentrate on baseball now."

The Giants offered Williams the chance to pitch in the Fall League, but he declined and Giants officials understood.

His mother died during spring training and Williams simply wanted to come home to be with family during the off-season.

This is part of a series profiling professional baseball players
from Hawaii. Tomorrow, former Rainbow Jason Ross will be featured.

Jerome Williams' career statistics

Height: 6 feet 3 inches. Weight: 190 pounds. Throws: Right. Bats: Right. Schools: Waipahu HS

Year, Team, League G IP W L Pct. H ER BB SO ERA
1999-Salem-Keizer, Northwest 7 37 1 1 .500 29 9 11 34 2.19
2000-San Jose, California 23 125-2/3 7 6 .538 89 41 48 115 2.94
2001-Shreveport, Texas 23 130 9 7 .563 116 57 34 84 3.95
Minor League Totals 53 292-2/3 17 14 .548 234 107 93 233 3.29


>> Drafted in the supplemental round (39th overall) by the San Francisco Giants, June 2, 1999. Signed July 10, 1999.

>> Finished fifth in earned run average (2.94) in the California League and led San Jose in strikeouts (115) in 2000.

>> Named to the Howe Sportsdata All-Teen Team in 2000.

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