April 14, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
The movie Field of Dreams takes place in Iowa, but South Carolina junior outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams, a native of Sioux City, Iowa, had different destinations in mind for his own dreams on the baseball field. Now that he’s playing on South Carolina’s home field, he hopes to take the Gamecocks back to where he first fell in love with the Garnet and Black, in Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series.
“Growing up in Iowa, you reach for the SEC in baseball,” Thompson-Williams said. “Omaha is an hour and twenty minutes away from where I live. I went to Omaha for the College World Series probably eight to 10 times growing up. I saw South Carolina win it all. That was one of the big reasons why I wanted to come here.”
Thompson-Williams was the 2013 Gatorade Iowa High School Player of the Year coming out of Sioux City East High School, and he was also a standout football player. When the right offers weren’t coming his way out of high school, he opted for the junior college route and attended Iowa Western Community College in the hopes it would help him reach his dreams.
“I didn’t have the exposure coming out of high school,” Thompson-Williams said. “I was just a position player from northern Iowa. I just wanted to develop and get better.”
Originally recruited to play both football and baseball at Iowa Western, he gave up the gridiron to focus on baseball. He helped lead the Reivers to consecutive trips to the NJCAA World Series in 2014 and 2015, and he earned honorable mention NJCAA All-America honors following his sophomore season, reaffirming he had made a good decision.
“The coach there (Marc Rardin) taught me a lot about baseball, and he’s role model for me,” Thompson-Williams said. “He’s a genius when it comes to baseball.”
Williams has had plenty of influential people in his life, on and off the field. It all begins with his mother, Teresa Thompson, who raised four boys by herself in a place that, like many cities, has temptations that can put people on the wrong path.
“My mother is a role model, of course,” Williams said. “And my brothers too. They were all very important role models in my life.
“All towns have good places and bad places. There are a lot of kids in Sioux City who could have made it out. They were talented athletes, but sometimes trouble would suck some of them back in. Knowing that, my mom wanted me to come down here so I could get out and enjoy my life. She’s happy that I’m here. Sioux City is not the worst place in the world, not even close, but you can get caught up in some bad things, so it’s good that I am here.”
He just wants to learn, and to help the team win. He pushes guys to be better.
South Carolina fans are glad he’s here too. Among the team leaders in hits, home runs, RBI, and stolen bases, Thompson-Williams has made an immediate impact and has become a leader in the locker room.
“I like to consider myself a leader, and I like to lead by example,” Williams said. “We have a lot of role models on this team, starting with returning players like DC (Arendas) and (Marcus) Mooney.”
“I think a lot of our new guys have been really good leaders,” said South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook. “Dom has been that way since he got here. He wants to win. He’s a very appreciative kid. A lot of kids, and I was like this when I was in college, don’t appreciate all that you have until it’s gone. He appreciates everything he has been afforded, every day.”
Perhaps some of that appreciation comes from Teresa. Although Thompson-Williams is mature and independent, his mom is still a big part of his life even though she is more than 1,200 miles away.
“I call her every day,” Thompson-Williams said with a big smile. “She stays on top of things. I look to her for anything. If I have questions, or if I need advice, she is the first one I call. When I was younger and told people I wanted to play in the SEC, she knew people might laugh, but she always stood behind me and told me I could do what I wanted. I’m here now, and I thank her a lot. She was always there taking me to my games and making sure I was at practice on time. If I didn’t have money for something I needed, she would find a way, whether it was fundraising or whatever.”
Stepping on to the field for the team he first enjoyed watching in Omaha, Thompson-Williams is already living the dream.
“It was everything I had envisioned,” Williams said of his first game at Founders Park. “You think about huge crowds and seeing really good ball players, and that’s exactly what it was. We have a lot guys on the team who can do it all, offensively and defensively. We’re truly blessed.”
Known as “DTW” by the South Carolina fans, he had a chance to have another dream fulfilled, when he met “JBJ,” Jackie Bradley, Jr., who was one of his favorite Gamecocks he enjoyed watching in their back to back national championships in 2010 and 2011.
“Jackie Bradley, Jr., came here in the beginning of the spring, and I had the chance to meet him,” Thompson-Williams beamed as if he was a young kid again watching in Omaha. “He’s a really down to earth guy. He was the (College World Series) MVP and has two championship rings. When you meet someone like that, you idolize them because they don’t put themselves on a pedestal. They come in and talk to you and get to know you. That’s what Jackie did, and I still talk to him now, or we text a little bit. It’s pretty cool knowing a big-leaguer.”
Thompson-Williams looks forward to having his family see him living out his dream in person as Teresa will make her first trip to watch him play at South Carolina later this month.
“I’m pretty excited,” Williams said. “It’s going to be meaningful to me. They went from seeing me play all the time in high school or junior college to not seeing me, unless it’s on TV. Just like it was new to me when I first got here, it’s going to be new to them to see this atmosphere and all that we have here. I want them to have fun and enjoy watching. I don’t think there will be any pressure on me though when they’re here. They love me for who I am, not what I do on the field.”
“He’s having the time of his life playing baseball here at South Carolina,” Holbrook said. “He’s a joy to be around in the dugout. He just wants to learn, and to help the team win. He pushes guys to be better. He plays the game the right way and is very competitive.”
As young fans today come to Founders Park and line up for autographs, Thompson-Williams hasn’t forgotten his upbringing and how he can pay it forward by being a role model himself.
“I have good friends back home who tell me that kids come up to them to ask about me and how I got here,” Williams said. “It’s inspiring when he tells me that. That shouldn’t be rare.”
After being a spectator in Omaha, Thompson-Williams is hoping he can help the Gamecocks make more memories, while continuing to chase his dreams on the baseball field.
“There are still more opportunities and excitement to come,” Thompson-Williams said.
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