During the third inning of a 9-year-old baseball game in Warrensburg, umpire Lucas Williams received the biggest phone call of his life.
“I was umping a 9-year-old game on the day of the draft, when my friend Brad Wilson (a former University of Central Missouri All-American baseball player) got my attention,” said Williams, a 2012 graduate of Grain Valley High School who starred on the mound for the Mules Division II World Series team this past season.
“He said my phone was buzzing and going crazy and I looked at it and found out I’d been drafted by the Houston Astros.”
So, what did Williams do?
“I had four more innings to ump in that game and another game after that – so I didn’t get to do a lot of celebrating.”
After the first game, he returned a call to Astros scout Jim Stevenson, who had called Williams during the 30th round of the draft.
“I had a missed call from Mr. Stevenson that said, ‘Call me ASAP.’ When I called, after my first game was over, it was the 33rd round and he said the Astros were interested in me.
“Then, Brad told me what happened and I got a lot of texts and calls, and after the second game I was able to call Mr. Stevenson back and get the good news from him.”
Williams finally went in the 40th round to the Astros with pick No. 1,207 overall.
“My girlfriend Jessica (Dornes) came up to the game I was umping and we got to celebrate a little bit,” William said. “And the first person I called was my mom, and I got to talk to my dad and my brother (David, who also played baseball at Grain Valley High School). It was so cool talking to them, but I’ve been busy at school and haven’t been able to talk to them in person yet.”
Williams, a senior at UCM who needs six hours and the completion of an internship to graduate, had a 4-1 record with 25 appearances and one start this season. The 6-foot-3 right-hander had a 4.00 ERA and earned four saves. In 45 innings, Williams struck out 42 and walked only 14.
Williams is the second former Grain Valley player drafted since former coach Mark Lyford took over the program in 2003. Danny Calvert was drafted that year by the Chicago Cubs but chose to go play ball at Hutchinson Community College.
“I actually heard about Lucas getting drafted from Jim Oliver (the former Grain Valley assistant baseball coach who is now the activities director at Pleasant Hill High School),” Lyford said. “He called and I went on the UCM website and read the story. I’m just so proud of him and happy for his family.
“It’s always special when one of your players is drafted because it doesn’t happen that often. I think UCM saw in Lucas what the Astros see in him. He has gotten bigger and stronger each year and he has a lot more velocity on his pitches. This is something great to put on the baseball mantel at the high school.”
Grant Gavin, a junior from Parkville and a former Blue Springs Rod’s Sports A’s player, was selected in the 29th round by the Kansas City Royals (please see related story). Williams and Gavin are the 33rd and 34th players from Central Missouri to be selected in the MLB draft, and the first since Zach Davis in 2014.
Williams will leave for the Astros rookie camp at their spring training headquarters in Kissimmee, Fla., Wednesday.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “I haven’t signed anything yet because they won’t offer me a contract until I pass my physical. I never really dreamed this would happen but with the (NCAA Division II) World Series just taking place, I’m in pretty good shape. And I kept throwing the ball around once the World Series ended just in case I had this opportunity.”
However, he does have some business to take care of before he heads to Florida.
“I’ve got to do my laundry,” he quipped, “because I need clean clothes for the trip.”