Mac Attack

06/28/2011 – Daily News Record

Red Sox Draftee Hot Written by Mike Barber Sports Department, Daily News Record

HARRISONBURG – Mac Williamson is all business.

Earlier this month, the same day major league executives were pondering whether to pick the Harrisonburg Turks outfielder in the baseball draft, Williamson was carefully considering answers on the GMAT test, which measures a student’s aptitude to succeed in business school. So when the Boston Red Sox phoned to talk to Williamson about drafting him, the call got forwarded to Williamson’s mother.

“She answered,” Williamson said. “I just told her to tell them what I was doing.”

Boston wasn’t offering enough money for Williamson – who has two years of eligibility left at Wake Forest – to commit to signing, but they called again throughout the next two days of the draft, upping their offer.

Finally, in the 40th round, Boston took a shot and drafted him without an agreement in place.

Williamson was driving back from working out at a Harrisonburg gym when the Red Sox called with the news they picked him.

“I was actually in the car with him when he got called,” Harrisonburg pitcher Niko Spezial – a teammate of Williamson’s at Wake Forest – said. “I heard, ‘Thank you very much, I’m very excited.’ He worked very hard, every single day.”

The Red Sox invited Williamson to a workout at Fenway Park on June 22. Williamson – who got the necessary score to be accepted into the five-year business program at Wake Forest – said he couldn’t afford to fly to Boston for the day.

“That’s everybody’s dream,” Williamson said Monday by phone from Gold’s Gym in Harrisonburg. “That’s the goal, eventually. It’s just: when’s the right time and when are the dollars right?”

This summer, Williamson is doing his part to raise his value with his play for the Valley League-leading Turks.

Heading into Monday night’s game at Woodstock, he ranked fifth in the wooden-bat Valley League in hitting with a .369 average and second in home runs (5), RBIs (21) and slugging percentage (.662).

He hit another homer against Woodstock on Monday to tie him for the league lead with fellow Turk Dodson McPherson.

“I’m surrounded by a couple great hitters in the lineup,” Williamson said. “Without them, I might not get pitched to the same way. I think it’s a testament to our lineup. They can’t really pitch around me.”

His success is also a testament to his work ethic, Spezial said. That’s why Spezial wasn’t surprised the Red Sox used a draft pick on Williamson.

“We knew something good was going to come out of it,” Spezial said of Williamson’s preparation. “You can’t put that much work into something and something not.”

Turks owner/manager Bob Wease said he isn’t surprised by Williamson’s production.

Wease saw the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Williamson and his Wake Forest teammates play against Maryland this season. Williamson went 2-for-3 with two home runs and three RBIs and drew two walks in a 15-5 win on May 20.

“He hit two tremendous home runs there,” Wease said Monday. “I knew what I was getting when I got him.”

Williamson was a catcher for most of his high school career at Wake Forest-Rolesville High, before moving to the mound as a senior. He was the No. 1-rated pitching prospect in North Carolina, according to Baseball America, before he tore the labrum in his right shoulder, likely costing him a chance to be drafted out of high school.

Instead of possibly heading for the pros, Williamson joined the Demon Deacons in 2009 (Wake Forest’s campus is about two hours west of the town of Wake Forest, where Williamson grew up) and redshirted his freshman year, giving him time to rehabilitate his shoulder. Then, in the summer of 2009, former Harrisonburg Turk Tom Walter was hired as Wake’s coach. Walter – who made national headlines for donating a kidney to a Wake Forest player in February – gave Williamson a shot as an outfielder, and Williamson hit .279 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs in 51 games.

To continue the player’s development as a hitter, Walter sent Williamson to the Valley League, where he has excelled.

“I think the ACC really is a great conference, it really prepares you for any competition you face,” Williamson said.

Williamson is still in discussions with the Red Sox about signing. Prospects have until Aug. 15 to sign with their clubs or return for another year of college ball.

Even if he doesn’t turn pro this summer, Williamson said being picked by the Red Sox was a thrill – and a sign that he does have a future in the game of baseball.

“A lot of kids don’t get the chance to get drafted and that’s their dream,” Williamson said. “To see my name on there was pretty cool.”