Kenny Williams Straddling the Line of Player and Coach

For the first time since July 8th in a game against the Empire State Greys, Titans’ pitcher Kenny Williams returned to the mound on Thursday night, tossing one inning of shutout ball, striking out two. By the time Williams got into the game, it was already out of hand, with the New York Boulders getting out to an 11-0 lead by the third inning, but despite pitching in just 10 games in 2022, Williams has had a lasting impression on the team.

Williams has spent the majority of the season on the injured list, but he has found alternative ways to help the team win. He has been the team’s translator, speaking both Japanese and Spanish, along with English, he has been helping people out in the batting cage, he has been the team’s bullpen catcher at times, he has helped out in the clubhouse with various tasks, and he has coached first base for the majority of the season. If there’s a job that needs to be filled, Williams is certainly the guy to ask in the Titans’ clubhouse.

“He has been wonderful in every aspect for the organization,” said Titans’ manager Bobby Brown. “He’s a high-energy guy, he does errands around the clubhouse… what doesn’t he do? He’s a very valuable guy to us, and when we can get him in there to help the team pitch, he’s pretty good at that too.”

Kenny Williams, Ottawa Titans – Tim Austen / Ottawa Titans

Pitching is still the number one priority for Williams, and after being activated from the IL on Wednesday, he finally found himself back on the mound, for only the third time at home this season. While doing other things around the team, he made sure to keep himself ready, and you could see the work when he pitched on Thursday night.

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“It always feels good to be back on the mound,” Williams said. “In the time off, you just have to stay ready, keep throwing, and do what you gotta do. You can’t control what goes on on the field, so you just have to be ready when you do get out there.”

“He has been staying sharp throwing his bullpens,” Brown said. “He has also thrown some simulated games out here. He’s a strike-thrower.”

Of his other duties, perhaps the pertinent one has been working with Mitsuki Fukuda, the Titans’ Japanese catcher. Williams has been Fukuda’s translator all season long, and he has been working with him to get him acclimated and comfortable with the North American style of baseball, and the Canadian lifestyle.

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When Fukuda is behind the plate for the Titans, mound visits will almost always feature Williams, who helps translate. Williams’ mother lived in Japan until she was 30, and while growing up, Williams attended Japanese school on the weekends. He says that he knows not only the language, but also the culture, helping his relationship with Fukuda. It’s not just Japanese that Williams can translate, however. With a handful of Latin players who speak relatively little English, Williams can (and does) help translate for the Spanish speakers, sometimes directly from Spanish to Japanese.

Mitsuki Fukuda and Kai Moody, Ottawa Titans – L. Manuel Baechlin/Ottawa Titans

“Just being able to communicate with guys on the field is big,” Williams said. “There are always going to be Spanish guys and Japanese guys in baseball.”

Williams has always been the kind of guy to pick up some extra duties around the clubhouse, and although he doesn’t see coaching in his immediate future, he’s certainly not opposed in the long run.

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“I have honestly straddled the players/coach role quite a bit,” Williams said. “There are 13 pitchers on a team and there’s only one on the mound at once, so there’s always time help out in other areas. I have always been in the habit, even in college and on previous teams, of just helping out, and it has been a pleasure to be a part of so many different phases of the game, all the way from [being a hitting coach], to translating, to [catching in the bullpen]. I’m still getting to practice baseball, and that’s what I’m here to do.”

“I definitely see myself as a player first, but there’s a lot of things that need to get done. We just had one of our coaches get a job and leave, so a bunch of duties opened up that had to get picked up. I can do it, I know how to do a lot of this stuff.”

“I really like being on the organizational side of things, but I’m taking it one day at a time,” he continued. “I’m a left-handed pitcher, and in baseball, the more experience you get, the more opportunities you get, so I’m just trying to build some experience.”

When exactly Williams will make the jump into coaching is up to no one other than Williams himself, but Brown is certain that when he does decide to do it, he’s going to excel.

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“I think he’s going to be a really good coach someday,” Brown said. “He’s still got it in his bones to play, so I never discourage a guy from playing if they want to play.”

“He’s a sponge. He’s always asking coaches why were [doing certain things] in certain scenarios, things like that. I think at some point, some people are going to be lucky that he’s their coach.”


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