Dave Williams happy to receive Hall of Fame call

Every once in a while, Dave Williams will receive a baseball card in the mail that somebody wants him to autograph.

His three daughters, who are mostly too young to have seen their dad play in the Major Leagues, get a kick out of it.

“They’ll laugh about it,” said Williams. “See? Dad had a few fans out there.”

Eleven years after he threw his last Major League pitch, the Caesar Rodney High grad has always tried to keep a sense of humility about his pro career.

So Williams was both surprised but excited to get the recent phone call telling him he had been elected into Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame.

Williams will be back in Delaware on May 22 when he and eight other people are officially inducted into the Hall of Fame in a banquet at the Chase Center on the Waterfront in Wilmington.

The 39-year-old Williams, who now lives in Douglasville, Ga., is looking forward to the occasion. He’ll get to see some former CR and Camden-Wyoming Little League teammates and coaches — people who helped him get to the Major Leagues in the first place.

“I was excited,” he said about getting the Hall of Fame call. “It’s definitely an honor for them to even recognize me. I left (Delaware) when I was 19. Once I got drafted, it was fast-paced from then on.”

The 6-foot-3 lefthander spent six seasons in the Major Leagues (2001-07) pitching for the Pirates, Reds and Mets. A 17th-round draft pick out of Delaware Tech-Owens, he won 22 Major League games and struck out 245 batters in 408 innings.

In his best season, in 2005, Williams went 10-11 with the Pirates, posting an ERA of 4.41 and striking out 88 in 138.2 innings.

Of course, to simply define Williams’ pro career by his stats would be to overlook the accomplishment of a kid who grew up in a small town making it all the way to the Big Leagues.

“It truly is like you’re living the dream,” he said.

Williams and his uncle, Wally, used to collect baseball cards. So imagine how thrilling it was to have had a Willie Stargell card as a kid and then meet the Pirates’ legend in spring training.

“It makes you feel, ‘Keep working hard because I think this is what I’m supposed to be doing,’” said Williams, “When you’re young, you don’t know.”

Of course Williams remembers his Major League debut, on June 6, 2001. But he also remembers the game the night before when he was sitting in the bullpen and the call came for ‘Williams,’ to go in.

His heart racing, the 22-year-old didn’t realize that the coaches were actually calling for Mike Williams, Pittsburgh’s closer at the time.

“It didn’t dawn on me that they’re not calling down for me,” said Williams. “I’m just a rookie. They kind of busted my chops on that. But it was a good day.”

Williams, who had to deal with neck surgery during his career, admits that leaving the game behind wasn’t easy.

Shortly after his Major League career ended, he pitched part of a season for the Independent League Long Island Ducks — just to be sure. He also coached in the Toronto Blue Jays’ minor-league organization in 2015-16.

“People ask me if I miss it,” said Williams. “It’s hard to describe. You play it when you’re so young and you don’t think things are going to fall into place like they do. I say, ‘Yeah,’ but I try to smile.

“I miss the teammates that now you don’t see every day and you don’t talk to as much. Life goes on. … I realize that every ballplayer, eventually you put down the equipment and it’s the same feeling — because you love it.”

Williams keeps busy these days, though.

He and his wife, Chelley, run their own independent pharmacy in town. Chelley is a pharmacist. There’s also their three daughters, ages 14, 11 and nine, to look after.

Williams also works with kids in baseball camps. Mostly, though, his life revolves around his family and the pharmacy, which he helped build.

“Thank goodness my wife had a pharmacy degree,” he said. “And she came from an independent pharmacy background. Her dad had opened a small store in the same town a long, long time ago and had it forever. There were some roots there to go in a different direction.

“I feel like my Pop sometimes. You’re retired. Nothing’s like that pace of playing. … But it’s been awesome. I’ve been able to take little things that I learned in the game that play true in real life.

“It’s kind of like one of those things — like ball,” he added. ”I feel like this is what we’re supposed to be doing, together. I’m thankful the Good Lord is steering me in the right direction.”

Odds & ends

  • Caesar Rodney baseball/soccer player Tommy Pomatto was named the male co-winner of the DIAA Harry Roberts Scholar-Athlete Award. The Delaware-bound senior shared the award with Newark Charter’s Michael Chen.

The female award winner was Tower Hill’s Isabelle Pilson. Laurel’s Nyra Giles took second with CR’s Stephanie Horne placing third.

In the history of the awards, there have been 107 scholarship recipients from 33 different schools who have been awarded $140,000 in scholarships.

  • Smyrna High offensive lineman Saleem Wormley now counts an offer from Delaware State among his 20-some Division I football scholarship offers.
  • The Delaware men’s basketball program has made a scholarship offer to Aleks Novakovich, a 6-foot-9 forward originally from Croatia.

Novakovich, who played for Bosco Institute near Chicago this winter, originally verbally committed to Evansville but reopened his recruiting after the Purple Aces changed coaches. Along wiith UD, Novakovich has also visited Marshall and Loyola Marymount.

  • Smyrna basketball standout Caleb Matthews is reportedly also “hearing from” Delaware, Drexel, Hofstra, VMI and Quinnipiac in his continued recruiting. The state Player of the Year has Division I offers from NJIT and Binghamton.
  • Delaware State is one of four Division I men’s basketball programs that hasn’t hired a full-time head coach yet. It’s now been 81 days since Keith Walker was let go as the Hornets’ coach.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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