Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 3/12/12
TEMPE, AZ -- When Jerome Williams pulled his left hamstring ten days ago, he took it seriously even though he's pretty much been assured that he'll be the Angels' fifth starter when the season begins. Now, it shouldn't be a big deal that an athlete is very concerned about a leg injury, but the former first round pick has a different story to tell. There was a time when I wouldn't have cared, said the number one pick of the San Francisco Giants in 1999 and 39th selection overall. When I was drafted I threw nearly 100 miles per hour and just used to blow the ball by hitters. I had all the ability in the worldand I knew it. So I stopped caring about working hard and staying in shape, thinking that all I had to do was show up and I'd win. For a while, he was right. He made it to the Giants in 2003, going 7-5 with a 3.30 ERA, and in 2004 was a ten game winner. In 2005, he won just 6 of 16 decisions, but posted a respectable 4.26 ERA while splitting the season between S.F. and the Chicago Cubs, who acquired Williams in exchange for his current Halo teammate, LaTroy Hawkins. Then the wheels fell off the food truck. At 6-foot-3, the Hawaiian born righthander began his career in the 215-220 pound range, but for some reason this professional athlete decided to try and eat himself out of the game. It worked. In 2006 and 2007, Williams collected no wins but did gain about 50 pounds. At the end of the '07 season he was released by Washington and disappeared from the major league scene. At that point, I was seriously thinking of getting on with the second part of my life, Williams recalled. I went straight from the big leagues all the way to non-affiliated ball. I was at my lowest place. My confidence was gone; six feet under. But I thank my family especially my wife (Sarah) for pushing me to keep going after my dream. He wasn't sure, though, that he'd ever get that chance. Williams spoke softly when relating the next portion of his story. I thought I was getting blackballed or something. People didn't know the real story behind (the weight gain), and I'm the type to be real quiet about it. I don't like to talk about my personal life, and I think people took it wrong. The reason for the weight was I'd just gotten too comfortable and I just stopped caring. Once I felt comfortable, I thought no one could take my spot. That was my downfall. Nothing sinister, just an ego run amok. I think I was labeled a lazy player when I was younger, Williams says with a look of acknowledgment. It showed. I ballooned up to over 270 (pounds) one year, and from then on I was trying to battle my weight. And I wasn't throwing the ball like I used to, when I threw really hard. I tried, but I just wasn't in shape to do it. Even after losing the weight, he said his mentality for the game just wasn't right. A 2010 trip to play for the Uni-President Lions in Taiwan's professional baseball league changed that and showed him he could still get the job done. When I went over to Taiwan, he said, I learned how to trust all my pitches (again), pitch with confidence and not worry about anything. After playing for years in independent leagues and overseas, Williams signed a minor league deal with the Angels on June 16th, 2011, was recalled exactly two months later and became the feel-good story of the year. Forty-five pounds lighter than the last time he made a big league start, Williams made his first start since 2007 on August 21. He beat Baltimore 7-1, getting his first win in the majors since 2005. He finished with a 4-0 record and 3.68 ERA. He also had gained a new appreciation for the gifts life had bestowed upon him. I knew I had the stuff to pitch in the majors again, but it was to a point where I needed to find out for myself if I had the right attitude to make it back. I needed to do the right things to get back to the big leagues. I just feel fortunate to be a part of that team and (be given) an opportunity to help, said the 30-year old. I hadn't been in the big leagues for a while, and I didn't want to try to do too much. But I did want to help a team that could win (a pennant). He was able to do that, and win himself a brand new reputation at the same time. (Jerome) has the potential to be a terrific starter in a championship-caliber rotation, said manager Mike Scioscia, and he's going to get the opportunity to earn that position. He's shown that he has the confidence to get the job done. His stuff definitely plays in the major leagues. And now, so does he.
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