Major League Baseball
Luke Williams' journey to majors, Olympics is baseball's ultimate feel-good story
Major League Baseball

Luke Williams' journey to majors, Olympics is baseball's ultimate feel-good story

Published Jun. 14, 2021 7:26 a.m. ET

By Jake Mintz
FOX Sports MLB Writer

Welcome to Good Times.

Every Monday, we’ll focus on three things from the last week in baseball — fans, managers, players, teams, cities, fan bases or mascots — where the times were good.  

Let’s get right into it.


1. Luke Williams and his family

The joy of a major-league debut belongs to more people than just the ballplayer on the diamond. Usually, it’s the culmination of a dream for an entire support system. A big-leaguer does not become a big-leaguer alone. Someone has to procure equipment, drive to tournaments and help wash the uniform.

For six seasons, Phillies rookie Luke Williams slowly climbed the minor-league ladder, one stop at a time. Nothing particularly newsworthy happened to him during that entire time as he gradually improved his skills and inched closer to the majors. 

Williams was not a name on many radars, a solid if unspectacular prospect, but through it all his family was there for him game after game, year after year.

So when Williams finally got his shot and had the most whirlwind week of his life, you could tell his joy belonged to his family, too.

Williams’ incredible recent stretch began when he was named to the roster for the United States national team participating at the recent Olympic qualifiers. On a team composed of former big-leaguers and non-40-man roster minor-leaguers, Williams stood head and shoulders above the rest, going 8-for-18 in four games to help propel the USA into next month’s Tokyo Olympics.

That ticket to Japan was punched June 5 in Team USA’s 4-2 victory over Venezuela with Williams in the leadoff spot. Three days later, he got his first big-league call-up, coming in as a pinch-runner. The day after that, he got his first major-league start and with the Phillies down to their final out in the ninth against the Braves, Williams cracked his first career tater in epic walk-off fashion.

And throughout his whole life-changing week of baseball, Williams had his family with him every step of the way, from Florida to Philly.

There’s really something beautiful about this story to me, and I think it serves as a great reminder that we only see the tip of the iceberg for many players. Debuts and the emotional weight they carry are the product of so much time, effort and work, from both the player and their family. 

As fans, we weren’t there for the years Williams toiled his way up the minor leagues, we weren’t around for the years prior to that when he was playing travel and high school ball.

A player’s family and friends, their true support system, are fundamental in helping that player achieve his dreams. And whenever a player has an unforgettable week like Williams just had, getting a brief glimpse into the jubilation a baseball family feels after years and years and years of grinding will forever be a humbling and beautiful privilege as fans.

2. Brett Phillips

If we were building a "Who In MLB Is Having a Good Time?" Hall of Fame, Brett Phillips might be the first inductee. The man with the uncontrollable laugh always looks like he’s enjoying himself on the field. 

The Rays outfielder entered the larger sports consciousness with his now-iconic airplane celebration after Game 4 of the 2020 World Series. But even when the lights aren’t bright, the dude acts like I would act if someone let me play Major League Baseball for a week. 

And this past week, we got another data point for Phillips, elite good-time-haver. During the Rays-O’s game on Saturday afternoon, Phillips was plunked in the back by Orioles hurler Jorge López. Upon being drilled, Phillips immediately turned toward López and squared up like he was ready to charge the mound. The ump intervened and began ushering Phillips toward first, not realizing Phillips and López are great buddies from their minor-league days together in Kansas City and Milwaukee, and both dudes were laughing their butts off.

Phillips is an elite professional athlete, striving to succeed on the field every day of his life. But thankfully for the rest of us, he’s also a banter lord who seeks every opportunity within the game of baseball to produce a chuckle and have a great time. 

We’ve seen thousands of plunkings and thousands of hyper-serious hitters scowl toward the mound, so it’s not the ump’s fault he assumed there might be some percolating beef.

But Phillips is not a man who gets mad, at least not between the baselines. This interaction was a great reminder that pitcher-hitter matchups do not happen in a vacuum. These are not just simply data points on Baseball-Reference. Some of these dudes are friends! And you boil it down, getting to square off against a good buddy in the major leagues is just another opportunity to have yourself a good time.

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3. College baseball crowds

Super-regional weekend in Division-I college baseball produces some of the best crowd atmospheres in the entire sport. With teams playing on their home field needing two wins for a trip to the College World Series in Omaha, fan bases came out in droves at full capacity this past weekend and made some real noise. 

The college baseball postseason is one of the last events on the baseball calendar – except All-Star weekend and the Little League World Series – that we’re getting back after the 2020 COVID cancellations. The shortened MLB season was obviously a tough bounce, but there was absolutely zero college playoff action last year at all.

But with cases down, vaccinations up and fans in the stands, the college baseball world absolutely showed out at regionals last weekend and had itself a blast. 

If you still haven’t tuned into the action, there are a few super regionals that stretched to Monday, so you have time left to hop aboard and let the electricity from the college fans course through your veins.

Jake Mintz is the louder half of @CespedesBBQ and a baseball analyst for FOX Sports. He’s an Orioles fan living in New York City, and thus, he leads a lonely existence most Octobers. If he’s not watching baseball, he’s almost certainly riding his bike. You can follow him on Twitter @Jake_Mintz.


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