Scottsdale, Ariz. -- The Colorado Rockies brought a familiar face back to the organization this winter in free agency, re-signing catcher Jackson Williams to a minor league contract after the backstop spent a year in the San Francisco Giants' organization. With just 30 big league plate appearances to his name, the journey continues for the soon-to-be 30-year old Oklahoma native.
Baseball life has been a bit of a pinball for Williams, drafted by the Giants back in 2007 only to make his brief big league debut with Colorado two years ago, see very short big league time again with the Giants last year, and now return to the Rockies for this season. Along the way, he's appeared in more than 750 minor league games and logged nearly 3,000 plate appearances in professional baseball, not reaching the Show until after his 28th birthday despite being a former first round pick.
None of that matters now to Williams, though, and the affable catcher seems happy with his decision to return to the Rockies for the summer ahead.
"Jon Gray have the same agent, so there was a lot of dialogue there with regards to Jon, and then my agent brought up my name," Williams told Purple Row of the process re-signing with the Rockies. "It was talked about here with the Rockies, and they were one of the first teams to say, ‘hey, yeah, we’d love to have him back here.'"
That made the decision easy for the University of Oklahoma product.
"I really didn’t want to leave in the first place," Williams admitted. "They obviously gave me my first opportunity in the big leagues. But not only that, I feel good here. I like the organization. I liked the guys that I played with."
Williams' time in Denver was very brief two summers ago—he logged time in just seven big league games—but add 72 more appearances in then-Triple-A Colorado Springs, and the catcher clearly had a good feel for what the organization was all about, enough to pull the trigger on round two this offseason.
"Who knows, there might have been other offers out there, but right off the bat this was the one that felt the best," Williams said, prizing familiarity over taking a chance. "It's the opportunity to come back here, plus knowing there's going to be an opportunity to get back to the big leagues, and stay there. I had to take advantage of it."
Now that his organizational home is taken care of, at least for presumably the next six months, Williams' focus falls on that opportunity he's being presented: entering his tenth year in professional baseball, he's only ever appeared in 14 big league games. Though roster decisions are well beyond his control, the catcher is nevertheless hopeful that trend will soon change.
"It’s definitely something you want, you want to make the big leagues more than just to get that taste," Williams admitted. "You want to stay there. But at the same time, you have no control over that aspect of it, all you can do is push the envelope for the guys that are watching and make them say 'hey, this guy can help us win ball games.'"
To that end—with dreams of a big league job firmly planted in the back of his head—Williams has taken the spring to figure out a new angle to break through to baseball's biggest stage.
"I try to come here every day and prepare, and control what I can control," Williams said, citing that oft-used cliché. "That means getting extra work, whether watching video or doing other little things to tighten my game, and hope my preparation carries out on to the field and shows up in my performance."
As he goes about what is surely a stressful activity, though, Williams nevertheless sounds relieved to be in a familiar place, enjoying his new (and old) teammates and growing around the Rockies' clubhouse every day.
"It's a family atmosphere here, all the guys get along, it's a good group of guys, and nobody is an outlier," Williams noted. "Everybody meshes and fits in well, and that’s what it takes to win. That was something I looked forward to, and it comes from the top down."
The top down approach served Williams' mindset well here in the past, and he expects that to continue in 2016, regardless of how the chips fall for him in the big leagues or Triple-A. At the very least, the ball will be in his court in terms of maximizing whatever opportunities he gets.
"My first go-round here, I never questioned what they expected of me. Things were pretty cut and dry," Williams noted. "It was about what I was trying to accomplish, and what was going to give me the opportunity to play at the big league level. I just have to go out and get it done."