LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky catcher Michael Williams, a 37th round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft by the San Francisco Giants, has elected to return to UK for his senior season, he announced on Saturday afternoon.
“It was a tough decision,” Williams said. “When it came down to it I you just have to go with your heart and I feel like with the class we have coming in and the team we have already have there we have a good chance to compete in the SEC and make the tournament this year, make a run in the postseason this year, we will see how it goes. I am just ready to get back there and impact the team and help the young guys out.”
Williams is now the eighth Wildcat to be drafted out of UK as a junior to elect to return to school for their senior seasons in the last five years. Among the players who have improved their draft positions by returning to UK include MLB outfielder Collin Cowgill (29th round in 2007, fifth round in 2008), Sawyer Carroll (18th round in 2007, third round in 2008), Scott Green (15th round in 2007, third round in 2008), Taylor Black (28th round in 2010, 16th round in 2011), Chris Rusin (23rd round in 2008, fourth round in 2009) and Sean Coughlin (42nd round in 2006, 13th round in 2007).
“We are very pleased that Mike has elected to return to school for his senior season,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “Mike has meant a lot to our program over the last few years and as a junior he really started to progress offensively and defensively. His decision to return to school will help him continue to develop in the best league in college baseball, will help him finish his degree and will help further his development for professional baseball.
“Mike is a great teammate and a good leader and combined with the group of upperclassman we have returning and another talented group of freshmen and sophomores we are excited to get going in the fall.”
Regarded as one of the better collegiate catchers in the nation, Williams helped anchor a UK lineup as a junior that ranked second in the Southeastern Conference in home runs in 2011. A native of Knoxville, Tenn., Williams belted seven homers and added 23 RBI and a .264 average in his first season as an everyday starter. A 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, Williams made 47 starts on the year also seeing some time at first and third base. Williams teamed with Luke Maile to form a dynamic backstop tandem in 2011, with the duo combining for 16 home runs and 59 RBI.
“Being a leader you have to be outside of yourself,” Williams said about being a senior leader in 2012. “Even when you are struggling personally and individually, you still have to have the strength to help other people out even when you are not doing good. You just have to show people how to work hard, be humble and be accountable for their actions and what they do. You learn that through life as you go along. But the older you are and the more experience you have the more people look up to you because you have been there, you have done it and you have experienced it.”
Williams had a solid junior season, batting .264 with 11 doubles, seven homers and 23 RBI. Owning one of the best arms in the nation behind the plate, Williams nailed 16 runners attempting to steal on the year and eight in first-round starter Alex Meyer's starts. Williams got blistering hot late in the year, batting a team-high .358 (19-for-53) during the month of April, including five doubles and two homers in 15 starts. Williams had several highlights during his junior season, including launching two homers in a three-hit game against Illinois-Chicago, also adding homers at Ole Miss, LSU and against No. 1 Vanderbilt and Indiana.
“It is always a big deal to get a college degree, because you never know when you baseball career could end,” Williams said about the opportunity to get closer to graduating. “It is always a big thing because like that commercial says for the NCAA, everyone is not going to be a pro athlete so you have to have a degree and have that higher education. It is certainly a goal of mine to get my degree so I am excited to get closer to that this year.”