Steven Williams knows that this isn’t the way things were supposed to go.
He was supposed to play out his junior year this season, instead of it being cut short before SEC play during the spread of the coronavirus. The MLB Draft was supposed to be 40 rounds, not five. He was supposed to be leaving Auburn and going pro by now.
But speaking of how things were supposed to go, maybe going to Omaha was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a team like Auburn. And maybe that could change too.
Williams and the rest of Auburn’s returners are ready to make a change to that themselves once they’re back on the diamond. They want to turn ‘once in a lifetime’ into twice — and now after the dust has settled from the chaos of that MLB Draft, they’re focusing in on 2021 on the Plains and on being right and ready for the day play resumes.
“I think going into this year, I definitely wanted to sign after my junior year, and obviously with everything that happened, that’s kind of a weird situation,” Williams said on a video conference call with the media this week, representing one of several powerful pieces set to return for Auburn next season. Williams in the outfield and pitcher Cody Greenhill were both MLB Draft hopefuls who, in another year, after chances to impress the scouts in SEC action this spring, could have easily gone pro. They could’ve gone pro anyway. Instead they’re coming back to the Tigers to reload and do it again.
“Things change,” Williams said himself. “I had an offer kind of late in the draft, but I feel like I would have been settling a lot for that. I’m confident in myself as a player to go back to Auburn, obviously, for a year and put up a good year.
“I think we have a lot of unfinished business here that we need to get to,” he said simply. “So that was really the idea for me.”
Williams was one of the heroes of Auburn’s wild ride to the College World Series in 2019, blasting Auburn to a win in Atlanta with a two-out, walk-off, three-run home run over Georgia Tech in the NCAA Tournament’s regionals that postseason.
This year’s season ended abruptly after just 18 games. Earlier this month, Tanner Burns and Bailey Horn were both picked in the MLB Draft, and Matt Scheffler and Ryan Watson both signed pro contracts to move on. But key pieces plan to return including Jack Owen and Rankin Woley, and not the least of whom are Williams and the former go-to closer Greenhill.
Both of those will be rising seniors in 2021.
“I feel like I have a big opportunity in front of me,” Greenhill said on Friday. “I’ve told some of the guys coming back that, ‘Hey, as soon as you step on campus, we’re going to get ready to work.’ Because I want my season to end in Omaha this year. And I know Steven is same way. We’ve been together and we look forward to pushing this team like they’ve never been pushed before.
“And personally,” Greenhill went on, “I want to do something special and give back to the Auburn community for all the support that they’ve given us. I feel like we owe it to them. And I feel like this year is a good year to do it.”