Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Tribe’s Williamson, Wall taken in first eight rounds of MLB Draft

(Tribe Athletics)

WILLIAMSBURG — With a duration of three days and 20 rounds, the Major League Baseball Draft can be an agonizing process. Not so much for William & Mary’s Ben Williamson and Cory Wall, whose nerves were eased sooner than most were projecting.

Williamson, who played third base and shortstop with the Tribe, was selected in the second round (57th overall) by the Seattle Mariners Sunday night. Wall, a right-handed grad transfer from Fordham, was picked by the Atlanta Braves in the eighth round (249th) Monday afternoon.

Since the inaugural amateur draft in 1965, only twice before had multiple Tribe players been selected in the first eight rounds. Neither Williamson nor Wall had to sweat it out for very long.

“It’s awesome for the families and the players and the program as a whole,” W&M coach Mike McRae said. “It’s been a super exciting couple of days for sure. Two very deserving young men, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Williamson hadn’t been expecting to have his name called until day two, when the third through the 10th rounds would be selected. So he was drifting off to sleep after 11 p.m. Sunday, the second round well underway, when the white noise app on his phone unexpectedly went silent.

“I rolled over in bed and looked at my phone to press play again because I thought it had stopped randomly,” said Williamson, who graduated in May with a degree in business analytics. “Then I saw it was my agent calling.”

Williamson was told the Mariners, which had already selected three high school prospects that night, were leaning toward taking Williamson with the 57th pick. He immediately woke up his parents and told them to turn on the TV.

“My dad didn’t believe me at first,” Williamson said. “But then he was like, ‘Why else would he be waking us all up?'”

Williamson, the CAA Player of the Year, batted .390 with 12 home runs and 49 RBI. Still, he knew he had more to prove.

So Williamson headed to Massachusetts and the highly regarded Cape Cod League. In nine games with the Hyannis Harbor Hawks, Williamson batted .394 with an OPS of .977. He started four games in left field, four at shortstop, and one in center field.

“I talked to a couple of scouts on his behalf and asked ‘should he go or should he not go?'” McRae said. “They said it could enhance his draft stock or it could hurt his draft stock.
“But one of the things that makes him so special is that he was willing to bet on himself. And it paid off tremendously.”

Pitcher Bill Bray, a first-round (13th overall) pick in the 2004 draft, is the only player in W&M baseball history to be chosen earlier than Williamson.

Wall considered his draft status to be “a coin flip” between Monday (rounds 3-10) and Tuesday (11-20). That coin landed in his favor.

“I got a call in the seventh round and a couple early in the eighth, and it kind of hit me that I was probably going (Monday),” said Wall, who earned his MSBA from the Mason School of Business in May. “I said no to a bunch and yes to a couple that ended up not taking me.

“Then I was on the phone with Atlanta and when I said yes, they said, ‘All right, we’re taking you for sure.’ I don’t know if it’s fully set in yet, but it’s really exciting.”

Wall underwent ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (a.k.a. Tommy John) surgery in April of 2021. He pitched only two games that year at Fordham and four the following season before being shut down with soreness.

Wall made 15 appearances for the Tribe last spring, 10 coming out of the bullpen. His ERA of 3.98 was fourth best on the staff of those who worked at least 50 innings. He had 63 strikeouts and 11 walks.

“He throws with pretty high-end velocity and he does it very, very effortlessly,” McRae said. “Sometimes we do a double-take at the computer screen and say, ‘Really, that was that hard?’ He does it with such ease, and that’s one of the reasons I think he’ll continue to get better.”

Wall is excited to be joining the Braves’ organization, and not just because they have the league’s best record at the All-Star break.

“I’ve heard from everyone that they home-grow their guys, so they were pretty high on my list,” he said. “They take care of their guys well.

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