As the early summer sun slowly lowered itself over Lowell Park field in Cotuit, Massachusetts on June 21, 2012, Trevor Williams (Arizona State) stepped onto the pitchers mound for the second and final time as an Orleans Firebird. Though the season was only a week old, Williams was departing in two days to play for Team USA - a dream of his that paralleled his already fulfilled - albeit short-lived - hopes of playing in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League. Like many of the student athletes playing on Cape, that night Williams, a sophomore from San Diego, had to clear his mind in order to focus simply on baseball. Unlike his peers, however, his greatest motivation to do so came from the number he wore on his back.
It had been a year and four months since Cory Hahn, Williams’s teammate and roommate at Arizona State University had broken his neck sliding into second base in his third career collegiate game. In what Williams referred to as a moment that “put life and baseball into perspective” for both him and his ASU teammates, Hahn lost any chance of playing in the major leagues and remains paralyzed to this day from his mid-chest down to his toes.
“There are certain things you see that will affect you for the rest of your life,” Williams said in regard to the injury. “It changes you as a person and matures you a lot more.”
It didn’t take long for Williams to realize the severity of Hahn’s injury and how it affected not only his teammate but the lives of those around him as well.
“Every athlete complains that they have a sore arm or sore leg and can’t lift one day, but [Hahn’s injury] really puts things into perspective,” he said. “He will never play baseball again, and it makes you realize that there is more to life than baseball. It’s more than throwing a strike out and hitting a home run.”
Williams said that the injury also motivated him to aim for the goals in baseball that Hahn, who had been a standout outfielder, could no longer attempt. “It makes you want to play that much harder,” he said. “It was Cory’s dream to be a major league baseball player and it makes you want to achieve it that much more because he can’t play.”
Williams’s success on the field this year for ASU mirrored this newfound motivation, as he tied for first in Division I with 12 victories and was the Pac-12 Conference's only pitcher to record 12 regular season wins. He completed the season with a 2.05 ERA in 109.2 innings pitched, and struck out 59 while walking 13. Williams came to the Cape League with the intention of continuing this personal success, but refused to do so without taking a piece of his relationship with Hahn with him.
After he was handed his Firebirds number, Williams asked if he could trade it in to wear the number 34 - Hahn’s previous number at ASU. Though thousands of miles from both his college campus and from Hahn, who is currently completing physical therapy in San Diego (and who was recently named the ASU baseball team’s student manager), Williams was determined to play in the Cape League in honor of his teammate.
Prior to his injury, Hahn had plans to play in the Cape League for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. As those plans were no longer achievable, Williams wanted to make sure that Hahn could make it to the Cape League in some way. In the eight innings Williams pitched for the Orleans Firebirds while wearing the number 34 he threw four strikeouts, allowed only six hits and had an ERA of 2.25. Though he departed on June 23 in order to play for Team USA, Williams said that his time in the Cape League was beneficial.
“It’s the best summer league,” he said. “Everyone wants to play for the Cape League. You get the best exposure to scouts and it has been a great time playing out here.”
Williams will be heading to Cary, North Carolina to train for two weeks at the National Training Complex, then will be off to Cuba to train for a week. He will then accompany Team USA to Amsterdam to play in the Haarlem Baseball Week Tournament in mid-July, which Williams referred to as the “World Cup of baseball”. There is no doubt that he is on a fast-track to achieving his goal of playing in the major leagues and it is clear Williams will take his experience on the Cape, as well as his relationship with Hahn with him as he succeeds.