A fan of “old-school baseball”, Seattle Mariners closer Taylor Williams always knew he’d wear high socks and his pants legs pulled up when he made the big leagues. At Mt. Hood Community College, the Camas High alumnus picked up another relic of baseball past: stirrups.
Only, nobody told Williams how to properly wear the garments until the first outing he strapped them on with the Seattle Mariners. On July 31, after his second MLB save, baseball lovers delighted in informing Williams on social media his stirrups were, in fact, on backward.
“I must have been wearing stirrups wrong my whole life,” Williams laughed. “Thank you to all the people on social media that let me know.”
Fashion blunder aside, Williams continues to shine in his first year with the Mariners. The 29-year-old owns a 3.00 ERA with six saves and 17 strikeouts in 12 innings. He firmly grasped the closer role for the Mariners, going 3 for 3 in save chances in the past week.
His success is no accident. In the extended offseason, Williams worked intensively with bullpen coach Trent Blank in Arizona. Blank encouraged Williams to throw his 86 mph slider more frequently. According to Fangraphs data, Williams is throwing the breaking pitch 55 percent of the time, compared to 31 percent with the Brewers in 2019, when his ERA ballooned to 9.82.
“I think it was more of an understanding of location and strategy with it,” Williams said. “It has been fun learning how to manipulate it and throw it in different ways.”
The offseason changes allowed Williams to take advantage of the early opportunity of expanded rosters and the Mariners’ beat-up bullpen to quickly impress the coaching staff. Williams said he wanted to come into the season with “a little bit of urgency” if afforded any chance at a role.
“There’s not too many guys that get the opportunity to come back and play for their hometown team that they grew up rooting for,” Williams said. “That was a huge driving factor and motivation in my own head.”
In the past life-changing year, Williams married his wife, Ariana, bought a house in Arizona, got claimed by his dream club and has earned a high-leverage role in the back end of a big-league bullpen.
“I’ve just been trying to slow down, enjoy the journey, enjoy the ride,” Williams said. “Just be grateful and appreciate the things I do have in my life: my beautiful wife, my dog, my cats, my family that supports me every single day and the teammates I have here.”
Unfortunately, while Williams flourishes at T-Mobile Park, his family hasn’t yet seen him pitch live in Seattle due to coronavirus restrictions. Still, his family and friends watch him regularly on Root Sports and it’s special to receive the postgame congratulatory messages, Williams said.
“Given the circumstances going on, yeah it’s not ideal,” Williams explained. “I’d love to meet up with family and friends, enjoy a beer and share that time with them. But hopefully in the near future, that’s something I’ll be able to do.”
Williams graduated from Camas in 2010, earning All-Region Baseball Player of the Year after leading the Papermakers to a second-place state finish. He went to Washington State to play his freshman year before transferring to Mount Hood his sophomore season. After failing to get drafted in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft, he ventured to Kent State, where he got MLB scouts to take notice. He was picked by the Brewers in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, and made his MLB debut in 2017.
According to the The News Tribune’s Lauren Smith, his six saves with the Mariners is a franchise-record for Washington-born pitchers.