By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Grant Williams doesn’t have much use for a dugout. Not playing is simply not an option.
So, the perfect solution to avoid riding the bench is easy. Well, maybe not for most, but it has been for Williams.
In his career at WVU Tech, Williams has been the picture of versatility. He was the winning pitcher in a game against Shawnee State last week — which is great for a catcher. Or a shortstop. Or a left fielder. Or ...
You get the point.
The senior from Huntington has played eight of the nine positions for the Golden Bears. First base is the only position he has not played for the Montgomery-based team.
Aside from a love for the game, Williams’ plan to always play drove his goal of learning to play at every spot.
“When I was growing up, I always practiced at every position just so I could play everywhere,” Williams said after Tech was swept by NAIA No. 6 Point Park (Pa.), 9-0 and 7-5, Monday at Linda K. Epling Stadium. “If you’re able to play everywhere, you’ll find your name in the lineup a lot more.”
Williams primarily plays shortstop for Tech, but also gets significant playing time behind the plate.
“Catcher is still my favorite, but I’ll play any position on the field,” he said. “As long as it’s baseball.”
Being so versatile is a philosophy that Williams and his dad came up with during their many sandlot workouts.
“We would go to the field every day, dusk till dawn, didn’t matter,” Williams said. “You had to work. That was a philosophy that my father instilled in me. Always play hard, and always play harder than the guy next to you.”
Tech coach Lawrence Nesselrodt appreciates everything Williams brings to the field, not just his versatility.
“He is a phenomenal athlete and a great leader,” Nesselrodt said. “He is our team captain.”
“I look at it as me helping out my team to the best of my ability,” Williams said. “Being able to play different places, they (coaches) can move the lineup, switch things up and give guys days off. It’s always good to have that one guy that can do that.”
Monday was a homecoming of sorts for Williams, who played last summer for the West Virginia Miners. It was a memorable three months for Williams, who not only was part of the Miners’ run to the Prospect League championship, but also was behind the plate for both of Sam Lewis’ no-hitters.
The first was in the season opener in Beckley against Slippery Rock, and the second was at Lorain County in July.
“I hit my first-ever home run here — collegiate or high school,” Williams said. “I’ve had a walk-off hit here.
“It actually felt kind of weird coming back here today — because I was so used to coming here every day in the summer — kind of being a visitor in your own park.”
Williams drove in a run in the Bears’ loss to Point Park in the second game of the doubleheader. Tech (2-9) has played a strong schedule in the first month of the season. Point Park played in the NAIA World Series last year.
“It’s just finding that groove where everybody realizes the mentality we have to have and coming out and playing hard every day,” Williams said. “Other than that, I really like this team. We have been right there in a lot of close games.”
Maybe, just maybe, Williams will get a chance to play first base before the season ends. He would love the opportunity, of course, but not simply to be able to say he did it.
“Me and Lawrence have talked about it, but I’m pretty sure it would have to be in a situation where it’s best for the team,” Williams said. “I don’t want to play first base just because I haven’t played first base. I want to play first base because it’s best for the team on that given day.”
Either way, at least he wouldn’t be taking the day off.
The Bears are scheduled to return to action at 1 p.m. Saturday, hosting Bluefield State at Douglas M. Epling Field in East Bank.
— E-mail: gfauber@