From the Big ‘A’ to High-A; Pitching During Opening WeekendAlways A Thrill No Matter What Level Current Angels Pitchers Reflect on Opening Day Rehab Experiences With the 66ers
Anaheim, CA- There are certain phrases in life that trigger animpulse response such as “How ’bout them Cowboys?“, “Let’s get ready to rumble!” , and as in the case of 66ers Director of Broadcasting, Sam Farber, will find out in a short period of time, “I do”. For baseball fans and players the sweet sound of “Opening Day” elicits thoughts of excitement, a fresh start, and the feeling that all teams are on an equal level hoping they can catch fire at the right time propelling them to the World Series.
For a pitcher, receiving the ball on Opening Day is a sign of respect and trust that they are to be depended on during the grind of the season to be a staff ace or get out of a pressure cooker of a situation while the opposing team is threatening to score. This season and last, the Inland Empire 66ers have helped mend a couple of Angels players on their way back to contributing for the Major League club.
This season, Jerome Williams was on the hill for the 66ersmaking his first start in the California League since 2008 as he rehabbed an ailing hamstring on his way to working back into the Angels starting rotation. He helped Inland Empire beat I-10 rival Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 6-5. In five innings of work Williams was able to strike out five Quakes allowing only two runs.
“It’s like being a kid again,” Williams said reflecting on his Opening Day start for the 66ers. “[The 66ers team] have real good talent. They have good pitching, infielding, and hitters.Many of the players on the roster have a real good future.”
Last season, 66ers fans saw Angels reliable lefty reliever Scott Downs during Opening Night.
“It is different and you always want to be at the Major League level” Downs said of starting in the minor leagues during Opening Night after pitching a perfect 9th inning of relief work for the Angels on their Opening Night. “It takes you back to being a kid. If you take away all the lights and the big crowds, you remember it’s just a game.”
“Any time you see a big league guy you get excited,” Downs remember of his minor league days. “Now I got to get my work in. I’m down there throwing working on hitting my spots and [opposing players] are swinging away.”
Any time a player that has made it to the Major Leagues rehabs with a minor league team, plenty of inquisitive minor leaguers pick the brains of the rehabbing players to get any tips or edge they can on advancing their own careers. Luckily for the current 66ers, it’s a position Williams embraces.
“I’m an approachable guy,” Williams said.”I’m not one of the big leaguers that’s like ‘get away.’ I’m relaxed and like to joke around and once [the 66ers players] saw that they came up and talked to me.”
Taking the mound for the Angels tonight, Williams lived out another dream of his. The Hawaii native received the nod to pitch on Jackie Robinson Day across the Major League and wear #42 in honor of a childhood idol.
Williams will now have another story to reflect on and share with minor league players if another rehab start is needed in his career. Preferably not on Opening Day though.