Jan. 11, 2018
By Brad Muller | More Features
Jake Williams made big plays with his arm and his bat as an outfielder on South Carolina's 2011 College World Series Championship team. Now he hopes to make his best pitch as he is producing a documentary on the 2010-2012 era of Gamecock Baseball, which he hopes to eventually get aired on a major sports network.
“It’s a 30 for 30 style film,” Williams said, referring to the ESPN documentary series. “We’re juggling some (naming) ideas, but what we’re set on right now is ‘Breaking the Curse.’ I’ve been working on it for over a year now. I’ve done 15 interviews with ex-teammates and coaches. We talk a lot about what they’ve done since playing here, as well as those championships.”
Williams got into film making after earning his degree in visual communications in 2012, and he noted that his former coach and current Athletics Director Ray Tanner, along with other University officials, have been very helpful with the project.
“The idea really came from a few years back, which was sort of the initial age of the iPhone era,” Williams said. “All of my teammates, and myself included, were taking videos during the championships. There was so much cool stuff on my cell phone after that 2011 season, and I just thought something should be done with all of this.”
South Carolina won back-to-back College World Series titles in 2010 and 2011 and was the runner up in 2012. Working with Emmy Award-winning editor Jonathan Hillyard, formerly of Gamecock Productions, along with a team of other editors, Williams noted that this isn’t simply a highlight film, and he is confident that college baseball fans will enjoy a special inside look at those championship teams.
“It was a little bit weird going from being a player to being on the other side of the lens,” Williams said. “It’s a lot of fun. One of the unique things about the film is that these are close friends telling stories that no one has ever heard. It’s a perspective you wouldn’t get from anywhere else.”
It’s been super emotional in positive ways, in touching ways, and in powerful ways.
Once completed, he looks forward to pitching it to television executives to get it broadcast to a national audience. Williams has spent a lot of time fundraising for the project and is still capturing additional interviews, which will include a sit-down with 2010 College World Series hero and current Kansas City Royal, Whit Merrifield. He hopes to have a rough cut available for the former players and coaches to see later this spring. He will soon launch a web site to document the journey he has made in producing the film.
Williams considers the project a film that speaks to what he calls “the human condition.”
“So much good came from this team,” Williams said. “So many lives were touched. So many things were affected in a positive way. In the process of making this, I’ve learned so many stories that I didn’t know, and I was on the team. I had countless people tell me how their grown fathers were crying their eyes out when we won. There were stories of people who were struggling with cancer that were watching the games to get away for a while. There a lot of human elements that we will incorporate into this film.”
Williams added that the process of making the film has had a big impact on him that he wasn’t expecting.
“It’s been super emotional in positive ways, in touching ways, and in powerful ways,” Williams said. “It’s been a lot of fun, too. I’ve tracked down 15 guys so far, and they’ve all enjoyed getting back in this realm to share a laugh and good memories. There is some hilarious stuff, and maybe some stuff we won’t be able to put in.”
Fortunately for fans, some of the players had good foresight in whipping out their phones to record big moments. Behind the scenes footage includes Coach Tanner addressing the team on the bus immediately after winning the 2011 Championship.
“I’ve already got my apology in to Coach Tanner for that one,” Williams laughed. “I instinctively pulled out my phone, and sort of hid it and recorded his whole postgame speech. I think Gamecock fans will be quite interested to hear it.”
Williams is probably best remembered for two huge plays in 2011. The first was a pinch-hit, three-run home run in the rubber game against Clemson at Fluor Field, but a defensive play in the bottom of the 10th inning against Florida in game 1 of the championship series in Omaha is what stood out the most.
“I guess it will probably be the throw that most folks remember,” Williams said of throwing out Gator runner Cody Dent at the plate from left field to keep the game tied 1-1. “They get the guy on second and they have their best hitter (Mike Zunino) up. I look over and I see Jackie (Bradley, Jr.), who has an incredible arm. I look over and see Evan (Marzilli), who has an incredible arm. So, I said, ‘yeah it’s pretty likely this ball is coming to me.’ I just had one of those feelings. It was a very surreal moment.
“To be honest, I’ve gotten a lot of love for the Clemson home run as well. They told me I was going to hit, and then they said that (Michael) Roth was going to hit and to go sit on the bench. Then all of the sudden, I’m back in and hitting. I walked up to the plate completely cold as a pinch-hitter. I think I took one or two warm-up swings. Even sweeter, the guy on the mound was a friend I played AAU baseball with.”
As he puts the finishing touches on his film, Williams can’t wait to share it with Gamecocks, and he expects that fans will enjoy the unique perspective.
“(The championships) were decades in the making,” Williams said. “Gamecock fans were waiting a real long time for those championships.”
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