About 1,000 spectators packed Carleton Davidson Stadium to cheer the Champion City Kings on Wednesday night.
No one, though, likely traveled farther to get here than Bradley Williams.
The Champion City Kings left-handed pitcher calls Springfield home this summer by way of college baseball programs in Kentucky, Minnesota and his original starting point of Perth, Australia.
Williams, who could see his first action Friday or Saturday, came to Springfield by way of the Campbellsville University Tigers, an NAIA program in Kentucky.
“I can’t wait to see him pitch. I’ve heard nothing but good things about him,” said Kings general manager Rick White.
“I’m glad he came to play for us.”
As is Williams, who can tolerate Springfield’s spring much better than Minnesota’s rough winters. A winter day in Perth drops the daytime temps to about 50 degrees, and maybe 35 at night, Williams said.
“From Minnesota, the cold weather was a bit of a shock when I first got here,” he said. “The two years there was enough. I’m kind of warming up to it. It’s gotten better.”
The same can be said of his baseball accommodations. Williams was impressed with Carleton Davidson’s spacious field, including its manicured grass infield. It’s a pitcher’s park with distances of 335 feet down the left-field line, 340 down the right-field line, 400 to dead center and ample foul territory.
Armed with a fastball, curve, slider, change-up and an in-progress splitter, he’s ready to unleash them for the Kings.
Williams went 1-1 with a 4.63 earned-run average for Campbellsville this past season. Opponents hit .271 against him.
“To me, it kind of feels like an All-Star game already,” Williams said of the festivities surrounding the inaugural game. “I’ve never had anything like this. I’m excited to see what we’re up against.”
As the only Australian on the team, Williams already knows what to expect when he joins a new program.
Jokes. And lots of them.
“All the time,” Williams said of hearing the phrase ‘Throw another shrimp on the barbie.’ “All the time. Coaches and players. I get that wherever I go.”
The Kings had an inside source finding Williams. Kings manager Brett Neffendorf’s brother, Brad, is an assistant coach at Campbellsville.
Williams made his way to the United States in similar fashion. Perth Heat baseball coach Steve Fish, who played with the Los Angeles Angels and was their minor league player of the year in 1998, contacted a former teammate coaching in Minnesota.
“He called up the coach and that’s pretty much how it happened,” Williams said. “He said I have a pitcher for you and I was on my way.”
And after Wednesday, so are the Kings.