In the 14th round of this year’s draft, the Cardinals took Donivan Williams, a high schooler from Chicago. The team lured him away from Illinois State with a $300,000 signing bonus. Our post-draft analysis praised the pick, indicating the Cardinals could be getting quite the steal. Williams has been assigned to the Gulf Coast League Cardinals in Jupiter and on a team of young players, he is the youngest, turning 18 at the end of this month.
I talked with Williams about his draft experience and his adjustment to the pros. A portion of our conversation is below. You can follow Williams on twitter by clicking @Don_Don25.
VEB: What were you doing when you found out you had been drafted? How did you find out?
DW: I was actually hitting. My agent texted me and said get home. He knew I was hitting and going to work out so he told me get home and I went home. About 30 minutes into the draft, he called me again and told me to get ready. Fourteenth round came and they called my name.
VEB: The Cardinals took you in the 14th round, is that where you were expecting to go?
DW: I was prepared for the second day, but I wasn’t expecting anything because you just never know. I got picked up by the Cardinals which was great because I used to be a big Cardinals fan.
VEB: I heard you are a big Albert Pujols fan. What drew you to him?
DW: I liked his style of play. I actually liked Rafael Furcal, too. I was a big Cardinals fan, but when they didn’t sign [Pujols] after his contract was up, I was pretty devastated. Then Rafael Furcal stopped playing. Chris Carpenter retired. It was sad.
VEB: You were in the White Sox ACES program. What was that program like, and how did it help you prepare?
DW: It’s a program for inner-city kids who grow up in the city who don’t have much exposure for travel teams. The White Sox have this big tryout in the summer. Then they put you through this program with scholarships and colleges. They even put you in front of pro scouts. You get a lot of tournaments where you will see pro scouts.
VEB: How did you get started in baseball?
I started when I was young. I played three sports. I played basketball, football, and baseball. Everyone told me I was better at football, but I loved baseball more. I knew that’s what I wanted to do in college and high school so I stopped playing both sports and just stuck to baseball when I got to high school.
VEB: You’ve been DH your first few games. What position are you working on when you see the field?
DW: I’m pretty sure I’m probably going to be playing third here, but I don’t just settle for one position. I go to every other position, too. I haven’t been to the outfield, so we’ll see. Me and Michael Brdar joke around about the outfield because he had never played there either but he got put in the outfield so I wouldn’t be surprised if I got tossed out there.
VEB: You’ve now got a bunch of teammates from the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Do you speak Spanish?
DW: A little bit. I took Spanish from eighth grade to senior year, but its not as good. They talk too fast for me.
VEB: Is that something you’re working on?
DW: It is. I’ll probably take some classes this winter.
VEB: How big of a jump is it from competing in high school and showcases to playing down in Jupiter?
DW: It’s big. In high school, you would get every now and then a pitcher committed to a big school throwing in the mid-90s, low-90s, but you consistently see the 80s. When I come here and start taking pitches, everything looks like a golf ball because they are throwing so fast and it looks so small.
My approach has changed a lot. I was a three-hitter for high school, hitting .500 with a lot of extra base hits and home runs, but on this team, I have to shorten my swing because the ball comes in faster.
VEB: How big is Terry Fuller?
DW: Oh, he’s huge. He’s a monster. He’s like 6’4”, 250 out of high school. It’s crazy.
VEB: As far as influences in your life, either on or off the field, whose made a big difference for you?
DW: Lou Collier. He was my 12U coach the first time I played travel ball for a full-time travel team, He took me in like a son. He changed me. He taught me everything I know now. I still go to him for practicing, for training and advice. He just knows what to say. He knows the minor things in my swing or on defense so I think he was the biggest influence.
James Davison gave me the passion for the game. My first year of high school, he worked so hard. He is the reason I work so hard now. He gave me my work ethic, and for that I love him like a brother. He’s like a big brother to me.
Thanks to Donivan for taking some time out in his now-busy schedule.