MIDDLETOWN, Pa. – Those familiar with 2018 campaign put together by Penn State Harrisburg's Bret Williams know the type of raw power of which he's capable. During a sophomore season that included an American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Rawlings All-Region First-Team honor, First-Team All-ECAC recognition and a Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) First-Team accolade, the outfielder slashed an outstanding .365/.438/.696 with a stellar 1.134 OPS. Last month, the Mount Carmel, Pa. native got the chance to show off the swing that made him one of the region's most dangerous hitters a year ago.
On Dec. 28, Williams competed in the Power Showcase College Home Run Derby at Marlins Park, home of Major League Baseball's (MLB) Miami Marlins, in Miami, Fla. He turned in one of the most impressive performances of all players at the event that included a showcase portion and a home run derby, hitting seven home runs, including a 423-foot blast that measured in as the second-longest bomb of any competitor.
The rare opportunity for Williams to show off his sweet swing came about thanks to an email from Brian Domenico, the President and CEO of POWER SHOWCASE World Classic, to Penn State Harrisburg head coach Ryan Bown. Williams said that after he got the go-ahead from his parents, he was all in on heading south to spend four days in Florida just before the New Year.
"When we showed up to check in and get our uniform, we picked a number out of a hat to see when we got to go," he said about the derby process. "The whole derby took five hours … I was just hoping not to pick number one," he added with a smile.
Williams was one of just 42 players from NCAA Division I, Division II and Division III schools, as well as junior college players, to take part in the event. The full experience consisted of a welcome dinner, a player showcase that included a 60-yard dash, fielding drills and batting practice, and finally the home run derby. The participants also performed in front of a Marlins' scout.
"Normally my swing lifts the ball so I didn't have to change anything," he said when asked about his approach at the plate while in Florida. Williams' 423-foot blast was the second home run he hit in the competition and came while using a wood bat. He missed hitting the longest homer of the day by just four feet and finished fourth overall among the 40-plus competitors.
The slugger also bumped into a few familiar faces at the event, as Christopher Newport's Nicholas Baham and Seth Woodard were also in attendance. While waiting their turns, the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) rivals passed the time by hanging out and chatting about some of the battles they've waged against each other in years prior. Of note was Williams' home run ball from a year ago that was found beyond CNU's press box; a unit that measures 455 feet away from home plate.
The junior will now turn his attention to the 2019 campaign. Coming off an historic 2018 season that included 31 victories and an appearance in the CAC Championship Series, Williams and his teammates hope to make a similar run this spring. The baseball team officially began preseason practice in the wee hours of the morning on Jan. 28.
All that said, there's just one little thing Williams wishes he would have gotten to experience while in South Beach.
"I wish Derek Jeter was there," he said with a laugh.
Penn State Harrisburg opens the regular season with a doubleheader at Eastern Mennonite on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 23. The team's first home contest comes against Penn State Berks on Wednesday afternoon, March 13.