The Beautiful Game Meets America’s Favorite Pastime

By September 12, 2017Columbus Crew SC

Photo Credit: Richard Kruszynski/ISNSoccer.com

To say that the Cleveland Indians are on an epic run is an incredible understatement.  They are in the midst of a 19-game winning streak, one of the longest and most impressive in the modern era.  They are hitting home runs at a frantic pace: 38 home runs in 19 games, their opposition scored only 32 runs during that same period.  The Indians also boast a +100 run differential over 19 games, the highest total since 1939.

Tuesday night’s game against the Detroit Tigers was obviously special for a lot of reasons.  Getting a chance to see history in the making is a rare thing, but getting to throw out a first pitch on such a night is priceless.  Just ask Columbus Crew SC defender Josh Williams.

“It’s definitely a special day, having grown up as an Indians fan my whole life and playing baseball for practically my whole life,” Williams said. “At the end of the day I am just a fan.  In order to get to do this and have the opportunity to throw this out in front of all of my family and friends and with the winning streak they have been on, it’s a dream come true.”

The Copley, Ohio native was a three-sport star at Copley HS, an athlete that excelled at everything he participated in: baseball, basketball, and soccer.  He would eventually choose soccer, staying in Northeast Ohio for college and leading Cleveland State’s men’s soccer program to unprecedented success.

Williams was a logical choice for a first pitch with the Indians.  He was a local product that had made it big.  His family and friends would turn out in numbers to show their support for the MLS veteran.

Photo Credit: Richard Kruszynski/ISNSoccer.com

“Actually the list keeps growing,” Williams said of his following on Tuesday night. “Each minute that goes by I get another call that someone else is at the game.  I have eight close family members and a bunch of friends that got some last-minute tickets and shown up to support me.  I’m very appreciative of that.”

Williams was a three-sport standout in high school, but eventually a decision had to be made with regards to the future.  The choice was a very important one, perhaps a life-changing one.

“I stopped playing my senior year in high school, went on to play soccer in college,” Williams added. “Up to that point I played until my senior year.  As a young kid, I thought it was my favorite sport.  Senior year that changed.”

As you can see, the beautiful game won out and the rest is history.  Williams is now in his ninth season of MLS, quite an accomplishment for the 29-year-old.

“My baseball coach was pushing me to play in college, but there wasn’t enough movement, there wasn’t enough running,” Williams continued. “I didn’t like standing in the field, waiting for the ball to get to you.  In soccer, I found continual movement and that suited me better.  My senior year I decided to go the soccer route.”

But he didn’t give up his love of baseball and his return to the diamond came in the form of a first pitch at a historic Cleveland Indians game.

“I’m not only an Indians fan, I am a baseball fan,” Williams said. “I appreciate the sport and understand how hard it is.  I have always been a lifelong fan.  Getting to do this at such a special time of year and on the brink of history just adds to the excitement.”

Williams’ excitement went up a notch when he found out that his childhood idol Omar Vizquel would also be there.

“I was a shortstop and we were all in awe of the stuff he could pull off,” Williams said. “He was actually down on the field today.  He’s on the Detroit Tigers staff.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to say hi to him, but he was unbelievable to watch, such an entertainer on the field.”

But how did this opportunity come about?

Photo Credit: Richard Kruszynski/ISNSoccer.com

“It was funny,” Williams concluded. “Arica Kress (Crew SC VP, Marketing and Communications) asked me, wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it.  I was blown out of the water.  ‘Do I want to do it? Of course I want to do it.’  It was shock at first.  As soon as the initial shock wore off, I called my parents.  I knew they were going to freak out.  I have been excited, like a little kid out here.”

Williams handled his moment in the spotlight with ease, delivering a great first pitch after spending time with Indians catcher Yan Gomes and pitcher Dan Otero.  Fellow Crew SC standout Artur was also there, sharing the great moment with the Northeast Ohio native.

It was a night that Williams, his family and friends, and Crew SC supporters will never forget. Many hope the good luck rubs off on Crew SC as they continue their push to the playoffs; they now have some inspiration from their neighbors to the north.

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