From the back of the field to the front of the stage

Emma Collins

“No matter how far you go, if baseball or soccer or football is your god, there is going to come a point when your god leaves you. For me, it was a huge and difficult adjustment. I spent a lot of years trying to figure out who I was.”

For Brandon Williams, the love of baseball began by age four. He played Little League and then played in high school where his abilities grew. He started to get recruited by Georgia Southern University and other schools, but ultimately decided to stay in Statesboro, his hometown since 1985. Williams played for Georgia Southern’s baseball team from 1995-1998.

“It was a completely different game. Honestly, I think a lot of the guys made adjustments to it quicker than I did. My first two or three years playing at GSU, I think I only had three at-bats,” Williams said.

Like many boys all across the country, Williams’ dream was to make it to the major leagues one day.

“From a young age, all I wanted to do was play major league baseball,” Williams said. “For millions of kids, that’s their dream. And only a tiny percent ever make it to the majors. It’s one of those thing where that’s all I ever wanted to do.”

In fact, Williams loved baseball so much that he considered it his “god.” He hoped to make it a career and to play baseball until he was the age he is now, 39.

“It’s something that I worshiped. It was all that I thought about and wanted to do, so once I got into high school, I did some tryouts for major league clubs, and at that point, I realized ‘I don’t know if I have enough talent to do this,’” Williams said.

Though it was a devastating blow back then, Williams is now able to laugh about the moment he truly realized that his baseball career was over. It was after a weekend spent on the road with the team, and it was during a conversation with the current baseball coach, Jack “Skip” Stallings.

“I had gotten a good bit of time to play, and I had a couple of good games,” Williams said. “One in particular was really good, and I thought, ‘man, surely I’ll play the next day.’ But I didn’t. When we got home, I asked Skip what I needed to do in order to play every day. He said, ‘well big guy, I think you’re over-estimating your talent and ability.’”

Williams shook his head and laughed as he recalled that particular moment. Though it happened nearly 20 years ago, he clearly remembers it like it was just yesterday.

“That stung a little bit. At that point, I realized that it was sort of the nail in the coffin of my dream. It was almost like my god died. A big piece of me got ripped away,” Williams said.

But for Williams, there was life after baseball. He graduated from Georgia Southern University with a degree in Construction Management. After interning in Atlanta, he returned to Statesboro to work and marry Susan, the woman he has been married to for many years now.

Together, they have three sons. Williams worked in the construction and roofing industry for close to ten years before he decided to go into ministry. He’s now the Senior Pastor of Connection Church here in Statesboro.

Williams enjoys spending time instilling his love of baseball in his three sons. He says the four of them enjoy playing the game, watching Sports Center and discussing baseball together. Williams says that he has had to back off from coaching his two oldest sons in baseball.

“I have to watch myself because I still have so much competitiveness. In fact, last year I decided it’s probably best that I don’t coach much because I get so into it. I have a tough time with umpires. Being a pastor and yelling at umpires doesn’t really go hand-in-hand,” Williams said.

There are two main things that Williams tries to teach his sons about the game of baseball: how to play the game correctly and—the biggest life lesson that baseball has to teach—that even when you think you can’t take another step, you can.

“Feeling like you can’t continue to go on, but then going on—that served me very well later in life,” Williams said.

Williams had one last piece of advice to offer to all current Georgia Southern athletes, and that is to keep your priorities straight.

Williams said, “My philosophy is, if you trust God with it and do your best and trust him with the rest, it takes a lot of pressure off. I struggled a lot under self-imposed pressure and expectations of myself. Remember, too, at the end of the day that is a game, not life or death. And lastly, just enjoy it.”