Posts Tagged ‘Brandon League’

Jerome Williams – Spreading Aloha, One Pitch at a Time

January 1, 2014

When you see Major League pitcher Jerome Williams for the first time, you see a big, strong man with hands the size of a grizzly bear. At 6’3″ and 240 lbs, you know for sure that he’s an athlete, and was likely “bred” somewhere in the Midwest.

And then he opens his mouth.

Bruddah’s first words to me were in pidgin. I loved it. And as we got to talking, his humble and down to earth nature made me feel right at home as if we grew up together back in the day. Just choke Aloha. The big grizzly bear had suddenly turned into a soft teddy bear. 😛

Jerome Williams and author Edward Sugimoto
Jerome Williams and author Edward Sugimoto

Williams was born and raised in Waipahu Hawaii. As a Marauder standout, he was selected, at the tender age of 17, by the San Francisco Giants as the 39th overall pick in the first round of the 1999 Major League Baseball draft. By 21, he made his big league debut – a tough loss against the Philadelphia Phillies – but closed out the year with 88 strikeouts, a 3.30 ERA and winning 7-5 record.

His baseball career has taken him all over the league with stints with the Giants, Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals, as well as all over the world, playing in leagues as far away as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Taiwan. His most recent gig with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was cut short this past off season when the Angels decided not to tender his contract, which actually now opens the door to sign on as a full time starter (Williams’ preference) for a number of interested teams vying for his attention.

I recently caught up with Williams during his recent trip back home to Hawaii.

 

Jerome Williams Interview

 

[Edward Sugimoto] First of all Happy (32nd) Birthday! (Jerome’s birthday is on 12/4/81)

[Jerome Williams] Thank you man, thank you.

[Edward Sugimoto] Did you do anything fun for your birthday?

[Jerome Williams] Well, not yet…

[Edward Sugimoto] Still early?

[Jerome Williams] Still early in the morning. Actually, I goin go see my mom. My mom stay up in um, down Kaneohe side (Hawaiian Memorial Park Mortuary). I’m gonna see my mom today. I always do that every year on my birthday. Go see my mother.

[Edward Sugimoto] Not many people know this, but you’re part Hawaiian.

[Jerome Williams] Yeah.

[Edward Sugimoto] (What’s) Your favorite Hawaiian word?

[Jerome Williams] Da kine (laughs).

Jerome Williams during our interview (Photo Credit: Arthur Betts IV)
Jerome Williams during our interview (Photo Credit: Arthur Betts IV)

[Edward Sugimoto] (laughs) That’s a good one. And what about your favorite phrase in pidgin?

[Jerome Williams] It’s explicit so I cannot say. Nah, most of my friends we always talk and there’s a lot of explicit stuff in it, but sometimes I get to a point where I use it a lot up in the mainland and guys don’t understand so I try not to say nothing.

[Edward Sugimoto] You can actually use it!

[Jerome Williams] I can’t actually use it at all. But like I said, it’s explicit so I can’t really say on air.

[Edward Sugimoto] No worries, no worries. In some what bittersweet news, the Angels decided not to tender your contract yesterday, making you a free agent. Your agent Larry O’Brien has been quoted though as saying that it could be a blessing in disguise because you could start for a number of other teams. What are your current thoughts on that and have you given any thought to a team you might want to pitch for?

[Jerome Williams] Um, you know, I think it’s a good thing for me. The years I was with the Angels I was a swing man. I was in the bullpen and starting, but you know, I really wanted to stay with the Angels. I just bought a home there. Like how you said, it is bittersweet. I felt like I had a new beginning with them and you know right now it’s just a waiting process. I’m a free agent now. There’s a lot of teams I really want to go to. First of all, I want to stay on the west coast. Closer to home, closer to my family. Also too, I want to be at a place where I can have spring training in Arizona (Cactus League). I really don’t like to go all the way down to Florida (Grapefruit League). It’s a long haul all the way out there and the travel for the games and all that stuff. Your closest trip is two hours. That’s the longest trip in Arizona. I just want to try and be closer to Arizona and closer to home.

[Edward Sugimoto] You’ve had a lot of twists and turns in your baseball career taking you all over the world (including stints in Puerto Rico and Taiwan). At any point, did you ever feel like giving up?

[Jerome Williams] Um, I want to say probably in 2008. 2007 I was with the Nationals and in 2008 I couldn’t find a job. I couldn’t find a job anywhere so I played independent ball. And the year I played independent ball, I thought I wasn’t going to make it back at all. But my wife and kids and my family, they always supported me so that year I got picked up and then I went to Puerto Rico to play winter ball. I got picked up by Oakland and then that next year I went to Taiwan. And then I went up and down playing from like I said Taiwan, Puerto Rico for winter ball, Venezuela for winter ball, Mexico for winter ball, so you know, I’ve been all over the place to try and get back to where I needed to be and fortunately, I got picked up by the Angels when I was in Independent ball in 2011.

[Edward Sugimoto] It was a good thing you didn’t give up because you had somewhat of a renaissance in your career.

[Jerome Williams] Exactly. All that hard work, everything that I’ve been through, it made me stronger.

[Edward Sugimoto] For those who don’t know, you wear a pink glove when you pitch. Can you talk a little bit about what that represents to you?

[Jerome Williams] When I first got drafted, my mom was alive. And then in 2001 my mom passed away from breast cancer so at that time I wanted to honor her and wear a puka shell necklace cause she actually gave it to me. But as the years went on, I got bigger and the necklace got smaller (smiles), so it broke. But in 2010 when I was in Taiwan, I was on a trip up there and I was real flashy with gloves out there. They’re real flashy with it. And the first time I went by a store, I seen a pink glove and I told myself I was going to get one. So that next year, 2011 would’ve been 10 years (since the passing of his mom) so I just wanted to pay tribute to my mom so I wore a pink glove. That’s what the pink glove represents it represents my mother who passed away with breast cancer. I wear it every day on the mound. The first glove I had that I brought to the big leagues, I still have it. I don’t use it anymore because I got another contract with Woodz. They gave me a contract (smiles). I’m the first non-Taiwanese player to (be) sponsor(ed) (wearing) their gloves in the major leagues so I’m pretty thankful for that. Just by using the pink glove it shows awareness of breast cancer. I know some people know that the MLB, they do breast cancer days. Breast Cancer day is every day for me.

[Edward Sugimoto] Do you think you’re going to start a trend with other pitchers?

[Jerome Williams] Well, if that trend starts, I’m the original guy to do it so hopefully I can get recognized for that first, and then people can do it.

[Edward Sugimoto] Your name, your moniker on Twitter and Instagram is @pinkpuka57. You mentioned the glove and the puka shell… Is that kinda where it came from?

[Jerome Williams] That’s how it came about. In the beginning when I first got called up, like I said, I wore the puka shell necklace and a couple of the guys on the team used to call me, that used to be my nickname is “puka” so that’s how they knew me as. And then once I had the pink glove and everything and then my number (57), then I was like you know what, I might as well put all those three together and make it just one.

Jerome Williams during our interview (Photo Credit: Arthur Betts IV)
Jerome Williams during our interview (Photo Credit: Arthur Betts IV)

[Edward Sugimoto] What is your typical day like back here in the islands?

[Jerome Williams] It depends. I know my wife and kids, they’ve been here a lot, so we try and hit up some places to go eat. The stuff that we don’t have up in California. The first day I arrived, I went straight to Jackie’s Diner in Waimalu. And then, last night, I took my wife to Shiro’s (Saimin Haven) in Ewa. The other day I went to Highway Inn. Highway Inn, I used to live right across the street from there. So we just try to hit up the places that we know we can’t get out in California and also too, just try to spend time with family and friends. Usually on the weekends and even during the week, friends, they come to the house, or I actually go to them. They play softball at Waipahu Rec Center or at CORPs. They ask me sometimes if I want to go play with them, and I play with them! I actually try and give back to the guys that actually gave back to me. That’s the true friends that I want to see. That’s the true friends that I want to hang out with. Sometimes I’ll go and see one of my good friends Bubba from Rebel Souljahz. They were born and raised in Waipahu and I remember when they were little kids. I always try and support them. The other night, I went to Republik to support Maoli and Jordan T. So I met those guys too. You know I just want to try and support anybody that’s from Hawaii that’s doing well and also too my family and friends.

[Edward Sugimoto] What are your favorite non baseball related hobbies?

[Jerome Williams] For some odd reason, everybody looks at me and they don’t think electronics, but I’m an electronic freak. Right now, I have all of my kids all on the electronics. My four year old knows how to use an iPad from left to right. And, actually, he knows how to do Minecraft. I don’t even know how to do Minecraft! So I got my kids doing Minecraft, I love computers, I love music. I like anything with any electronical type of things. Sometimes I like to do my car, like speakers, integrate my iPod into it so I’m really big into that. And then also too I like to play basketball but I can’t play basketball because I’m under contract. And my wife is like you don’t need to play basketball right now because you’re a free agent and if you get hurt then, next thing you know, you can’t play. I’m kinda pissed off about that. That’s the type of cardio I like to do, but I know how basketball is here, especially outside, and especially of what I am, people would probably want to try and hurt me.

[Edward Sugimoto] You mentioned your iPod. What’s on your iPod right now… Some of your favorites?

[Jerome Williams] It goes from electronics to dub step to reggae to Hawaiian music, hip hop, r & b, rock, country, I mean everything. I just looked at my computer because I put a 1 terabyte hard drive inside my computer and right now, on my iTunes, I have 316 gigs of music. So it’s equivalent to almost 55,000 songs. I have all that on top my computer and I showed my dad and my dad was like “Why the hell do you need all that music? You don’t even listen to it.” And I was like “No, trust me, I’ll listen to it.” But it’s cool to have those types of music because maybe one day, you want to try and browse through it and you’ll be like “Oh dang I used to listen to that when I was in high school.”

[Edward Sugimoto] Yeah, brings back memories.

[Jerome Williams] Yup.

[Edward Sugimoto] You mentioned Jordan T… Any other favorite Hawaiian bands?

[Jerome Williams] You know Jordan T, Maoli. Who else you got? Iration, of course Rebel (Souljahz). Some of the newer stuff, I really don’t listen to cause we don’t have that access up in the mainland but when I do come down, I always try and help them out, I always try and listen to it. I’m really an old school guy with the Hawaiian music. I can go back to Natty Vibes (Natural Vibrations), go down to Kapena, Hui Ohana. Hui Ohana is one of my favorites because that’s what my mom used to dance to. She used to dance hula and there’s one song I always listen to when I feel down and out. It was a song that my mom used to dance to called Sweet Lei Mokihana. Actually I listened to that song on my first win in the major leagues after I came out of the game because it soothes me and it always reminds me of my mother.

[Edward Sugimoto] You are one of only a handful of Hawaii bred baseball players in the Major Leagues so the fraternity is pretty tight I’m assuming. How often do you get to chat with people like Vic (Shane Victorino), Brandon League, and Kolten Wong, etc.?

[Jerome Williams] It’s kinda hard to talk to Brandon and Kolten because they were in the National League at that time, and I played Vic twice a year, I played him one time in Boston and one time at home in Anaheim, but whenever I get the chance, I always want to try and reach out to them. When Kurt (Suzuki) and Kila (Ka’aihue) was in Oakland, I talked to them almost every time because they’re in the same division. It’s a funny story because every time I talk to them pidgin comes out. So one of the guys on the team, LaTroy Hawkins, actually came up to me and was like “Jerome, are you from Hawaii?” and I’m like “Yes.” and he was like “Well, I want you to talk to Kila and Kurt right now. I want you to talk to them right now just like how you talk back at home.” OK, so we started talking and he kinda actually stopped me. And he was like “Jerome, I don’t understand what you said, but from what you did say, I know you’re from Hawaii.” I’m like, “OK, I told you guys that!” Because everybody thinks you know I’m black, but they don’t believe that I’m from Hawaii. I was born and raised here, born and raised in Waipahu, everybody don’t believe that. But getting back to what you said about all the guys, yeah, it’s a tight fraternity and we always want to try and see each other or try and talk to each other or give each other information. I don’t know if you guys were reading things on Twitter when we had the World Series. You never found that. That’s the first time ever you had two Hawaii guys in the World Series playing against each other. I was pulling for Vic because me and Vic, we got drafted with each other and I knew him for a long time. Kolten…

[Edward Sugimoto] Didn’t play that much anyway…

[Jerome Williams] Well he did play a couple times, a couple times he did good and the one time he did bad, but you know what. At least he had the opportunity to get there. I mean, I never got an opportunity to get there. I’ve been playing for, since I was like what, my first year was in ’03. I’m happy for them getting there and especially for Kolten. He’s gonna have the opportunity to play second (base) now for the Cardinals. Hopefully he can shine and do well too.

[Edward Sugimoto] And finally, do you have a word for your fans out there?

[Jerome Williams] Awww man, fans. Shoot. I know you guys follow me on Twitter and Instagram @pinkpuka57. Thanks for all the support you have done for me. I always try and give back to Hawaii any way I can and this is one of the ways I want to give back, saying thank you to you guys. It’s been a long road for me and I know you guys know my story. Every time I come back I always want to try and do something for Hawaii. This is my way of saying thank you. Thank you to everybody and um, just keep supporting me. Like I said, follow me on Instagram and Twitter @pinkpuka57. Aloha. Thank you.

Jerome Williams and photographer/videographer Arthur Betts IV
Jerome Williams and photographer/videographer Arthur Betts IV

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Q & A With Shane Victorino [Video]

August 20, 2009

Alright alright! It’s another exciting day up in hurr. Can you feel it? 🙂

I’d like to first start off by welcoming you new readers who found your way here via my floating head on the cover of today’s paper. Hope you like what you see and decide to check back often! 8) I would also like to send mad love to all y’all regular (dare I say daily?) readers! Majahloz for being a loyal member of our little WWE `ohana we got goin’ on ova hea!

Earlier this month, I asked you to post your questions for Mr. Shane Victorino to my blog. You see, your boy had the unique opportunity to meet and interview our beloved All Star and I wanted to take some of your questions with me, as we did with Bruddah BJ Penn. Well, I finally had the chance to edit, transcribe, and Youtube the puppy, and, below, is the fruit of our loins, er labor. 😛 Enjoy!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-fh0p1FANY

[bB ]: Did you have any baseball heroes and did you collect baseball cards of them?

I collected baseball cards, but I didn’t have really no baseball heroes growing up. I was very big into every sport I think. I never really focused on baseball, but I watched it definitely as a kid, but you know I never really was like “baseball’s gonna be my passion,” you know growing up as a kid. And of course now it is my passion, it is my job, it is my career, yeah I never really had any baseball heroes.

(Ed’s notes: Sorry beeBz, I got rayboyjr‘s question mixed up with yours! *blush*)

[hemajang]: Does Shane have any thoughts about life after baseball.

Life after baseball. Right now, you know what, I’m trying to line myself up with some things. You know things that you brainstorm. Hopefully I’ll have a long enough career, and hopefully I’ll save enough money that I make during my career and hopefully get to retire and sit back on the beach, but no, I definitely want to uh, you know anytime in this business I think you meet so many people you know, you just, you try to keep getting better and you try to keep learning and you always listen to people’s advice and try to get the best advice you can.

[Matt ]: what’s it like when he runs into other Hawaii boys in the league?

What’s it like? I mean it’s just like you know it’s one of those things where it happens everywhere. You know how Hawaii is. We’re very family oriented, we always stick together. Like last night for instance, going over to support BJ (at UFC 101), going around the league and facing guys like Tyler Yates, and Brandon League, and playing against Kurt Suzuki. You feel good because you see a fellow “Hawaiian,” a guy that you know, hey, there’s not many of us out there that get the opportunity to do what we’re doing. You know you feel good for the guys that get the opportunity to go out there and do that.

[kuya.d ]: What do his teammates ask him to bring back for them from Hawaii?

Um, you know what, a lot of them always ask about the pineapples. Hawaii’s got great pineapples. We got a lot of guys on our team that love pineapples. You know I brought President Obama… I gave him macadamia nuts and chocolates during the All Star game, so, you know stuff like that, little things like that that you bring home from Hawaii.

[NeedaHobby ]: did he know Kurt Suzuki growing up and does he keep in contact with him?

Yeah, no yeah. In fact we just spoke last night during the fights. He text messaged me over the phone and we definitely, I did play against him growing up. He was a couple years behind me. I think he was a sophomore when I was a senior. But I definitely played against Kurt. It’s definitely exciting to see another guy, another fellow Maui boy in fact, do well and with guys like Tyler, with Brandon, you know just seeing the state of Hawaii do well in baseball.

[rayboyjr]: Which current Major League player(s) are you a big fan of? Have you asked for autographs or game-used stuff from them after a game?

Yeah, no I get autographs from as many guys as I can. I never know how long I’m going to be playing in this game. I think when you go out there every day, playing with guys like Albert (Pujols), playing with guys like Jimmy (Rollins), Chase (Utley), and being friends with guys like (Ryan) Howard, you know being friends with the guys on my team, especially, you know, we got so many guys that are good on our team. I’m definitely a guy that likes to talk to people, and say hi and get to know people, so…

[zzzzzz]: Has he got any of his teammates hooked on Spam Musubi? Is PETA still giving him grief about Spam Musubi being his favorite food?

No PETA’s not giving me a hard time yet this year, but Scott Eyre, one of our relievers, he’s big into SPAM. He bought me some SPAM last week and we actually fried it up and ate it. Yeah we have some fun around here.

[skycastles]: Boxers or briefs?

Boxers or briefs? No answer on that one (*laughs*). No answer to that one. A little too much for me. (*laughs*)

(Ed’s notes: Never again sky! Nevahhhhhhh agaaaaain! 😛 )

[Dave Oi]: What do you miss most about Maui in particular (not necessarily Hawaii)…besides family & friends.

What do I miss most about Maui in particular? I think uh, the beautiful weather, the beautiful beaches. Just paradise. I definitely miss that. The Jersey shore is about an hour from here, and it’s definitely not walking out to the white sandy beaches of Hawaii and uh, you know, it’s definitely different living on the east coast. But like I always said, if everybody’s healthy and my family’s doing well, home will always be home. But when I retire, that’s where I plan to be, I plan to be back home in Hawaii. I make my house right now what we consider the 9th island, and that’s in Las Vegas in the off season. When all is said and done, I definitely want to move home to Hawaii again.

[snow]: Does he feel that, coming out of a small state like Hawaii, he was at a disadvantage trying to break into the major leagues? Or might that have somehow worked in his favor?

Um, I say yes and no. It might’ve worked in my favor, but yet it might not have. I think once you get to where I’m at, when you get drafted, I think that everybody’s on uh, you know there’s guys that are, you know a different level, 1st rounder 2nd rounder, but you know what, to me, when you get drafted, everybody has a shot. If you work hard, you play the game the right way, you try to go out there with the right approach. You know I’ve seen a lot of guys get drafted after me, a lot of guys get drafted before me that didn’t get to the big leagues, so I think it depends on the individual, the character of the individual. Everybody has a chance. It might’ve helped me in a way being from Hawaii, but I think everybody gets a fair shot. 

[YN]: what’s the weirdest request he has ever gotten from a female fan?

Weirdest request. Boy, you get some weird ones. Some I can’t talk about on camera, but some of the things you get asked to do, especially by female fans, it’s like, I can’t do it. It’s just not realistic. You know being around and having a passion for the game and fans loving you I think is such a nice thing. The most I do is sign balls you know and do little things like that.

[uncle jimmy]: Shane’s arrival and rise to a starting spot pretty much coincided with the re-emergence of the Philly Phranchise. try ask him if Pilly peopo consider him a good luck charm.

*modest laugh* I guess yes and no. I think this team’s a good team, but I think we all work together, we work hard. You know it might’ve been just a coincidence, but you know what, I appreciate the opportunity that I get to play here in this lovely city. And it’s one of those things where you never take it for granted.

If it sounded like I was kinda rushing, I really was. I had taken up a good part of his warmup time with my previous two sections and could tell he was getting a bit antsy. As you can hear towards the ending, some peeps started to trickle into the dugout as well! Apologies if I skipped your question but I think I got most of the non-duplicated ones in dea.

Look for the complete video interview and article at AroundHawaii.com on September 1st!

Hope you enjoyed it yo! Lemme know what you thank!

For those who get one holiday tomorrow (Statehood/Admission Day), enjoy! See y’all on Monday k? Shooots! 🙂