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February 3, 2008
Glenn Williams holds a major league record that you probably aren't aware of. A 30-year-old native of New South Wales, Australia, Williams has played in 13 big league games--all with the Twins in 2005--and he hit safely in all of them (Williams had 17 hits in 40 at-bats). No other player in MLB history has appeared in more than three games and recorded at least one hit in each. Originally signed by the Braves in 1993, Williams spent last season with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings, where he hit .235/.287/.358.
David Laurila: You hold the major league record for the most games played in which you hit safely in all of them. Are you aware of that?
Glenn Williams: I didn't know that. I do know that I had at least one hit in all of the games, though. I kept track of that because at the time a lot of people were asking me about Juan Pierre's 16 straight. I guess that's the modern day record for hits at the start of a career. [Editor's note: Pierre hit safely in the first 16 games in which he had a plate appearance. During the streak he appeared in two other games in which he did not come to the plate.]
DL: Now that you know, what does the record mean to you?
GW: It's one of those things where I was happy to get to the big leagues after twelve and a half years in the minors, and it just happened. Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire gave me a chance, and I was fortunate to have some success before getting hurt. I was playing pretty well, but separated my shoulder in late June and missed the rest of the season.
DL: If you make it back to the big leagues, it's inevitable that you'll go hitless in a game and lose your place in history. What are your thoughts on that?
GW: I'd still be glad to get back, even if it means the streak would be over. Every player wants to get to the major leagues, whether it's for the first time or going back to stay. The bottom line is that my wife and I don't leave Australia every year just for me to play in Triple-A. The goal is always to play in the majors and win a championship. I had an opportunity to win a Silver Medal in the 2004 Olympics, and that was fantastic. I've told a lot of people that being on a team that wins the World Series is the only thing that could challenge that. But if I don't make it back, I guess it will be nice to know that I have the record.
DL: What did winning the Silver Medal mean to Australia, both to the baseball community and the continent as a whole?
GW: It was huge for us as a team and a big boost for baseball in Australia. Everyone involved with the team knew that we had a shot at doing something special, but I think it surprised a lot of other people in the world and also in Australia. I think it also gave a lot of guys some confidence in the fact that they could go somewhere in baseball, and a lot of the guys on our team have gone on to play in the big leagues and have some success.
DL: You also played in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. How did that experience compare to the 2004 Olympic Games?
GW: The WBC was a totally different event. It was a great experience to play in the very first one, and it was very well organized and professionally run, but nothing quite compares to the Olympics. There are so many athletes competing in so many different sports and the whole world has a huge interest in [them].
DL: The Claxton Shield is Australia's most important tournament. Who plays in it, and how meaningful is to Australian sports fans?
GW: The Claxton Shield is played by six teams in Australia. It is the five major states--Tasmania doesn't play--and a provincial team made up of younger players who didn't make other teams, and people from country areas. Unfortunately, it isn't very meaningful to the Australian sporting public and doesn't have a huge profile in Australia. It is competing with so many other sports, especially cricket, and a lack of media coverage is one of the major reasons for that.
DL: David Nilsson is the best-known baseball player in Australia. How well-known and popular is he compared to athletes in other sports?
GW: Most people who follow sport know who David is. When I speak with people and tell them that I play baseball they always mention David's name. Cricketers and football players have bigger profiles and are more recognizable, but when it comes to baseball people know David, and rightfully so.
DL: How did you become involved in baseball, and how did you ultimately get signed by the Braves?
GW: My Dad grew up in Australia playing cricket in summer and baseball in winter. He had to choose when he was about 13, and chose baseball. He had a good career in Australia and international baseball and ultimately I grew up playing baseball. Many of the pro teams have scouts that spend time in Australia watching young players, and I was scouted. Because I was a free agent there was interest from around 12 teams, and after a trip to visit some of those teams in the States, and a chance to talk with all of those teams, we made a decision to sign with the Braves.
DL: You signed in 1993. In which ways is baseball in Australia different now than it was then--not just the popularity of the game, but the quality of play and number of scouts assessing Australian players?
GW: I signed when the Australian Baseball League was in its prime, so at the time the popularity of the sport was probably bigger than it is now. There was a lot more exposure of it to the public and in the media. Nowadays, there isn't a league, so the exposure isn't as much but there are a lot more young guys who are playing college or pro ball in the states. Our national team has gone from a team that other teams enjoyed playing in tournaments because we were usually considered an easy win, to where now we go to tournaments and feel we have a chance to do some damage and finish in the medals.
DL: You were 17 years old when you came to the United States to play. What was that first year like, both on and off the field?
GW: I was actually 16 when I first came over. It blows me away a little when I think about it now, but at the time it was what I had dreamed about my whole life, so I was keen to get started. The Braves took good care of me, and I got a chance to meet a lot of great friends right away, so I loved it.
DL: Culturally, how are Australians different from Americans?
GW: Australians tend to be very laid back and easy going. Americans, on the other hand, like to be a little more business-like and serious. For the most part, the cultures are very similar. Australians seem a little more willing to travel to other countries and experience different cultures. Everyone is different, and all countries are different, and that is what makes the world an interesting place.
DL: How is the steroid scandal in major league baseball viewed by people in Australia?
GW: People are aware about it, and sporting people and sports fans are very aware of what is happening due to articles on the internet and the coverage it is getting. For the most part, people are more concerned if a positive drug test comes through. The Mitchell Report definitely uncovered what people had thought was happening in baseball. It will be interesting to see what comes of it, but difficult to make judgments until all of the facts are revealed.
DL: What is your current status as a player, and what do you see in your future?
GW: At the moment I am still a free agent. My wife and I made a decision that unless there was a realistic chance of me going to spring training with a good chance of making a major league team, that I would explore other options. That hasn't happened, so I have been exploring other options both in baseball and out of it. I am still waiting to hear from some teams in Asia, but in the meantime have been planning on opening a business here in Australia. I will be heading to Taiwan with the national team in March for the Olympic qualifiers, and if we qualify I will go to the Olympics in September.
DL: If you don't come back to the US, how will you look back at your time playing baseball on American soil?
GW: I look back at my time in the US very fondly. Ever since I could remember, all I wanted to do was play baseball in the States. I was blessed and fortunate to be able to get that opportunity and do it for as long as I did. I had a chance to meet so many great people and visit so many great places. I would have loved to have spent more time in the major leagues, but doesn't every player that gets that chance? The experience of getting there, and the way it went for me when I was there, was special and something that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Author's note: Thanks to Dan Hoard, the radio voice of the Pawtucket Red Sox, who suggested last summer that Williams may hold the unique record that he does. Thanks also to BP's Jason Paré for researching and verifying the fact.