By Thomas Sellers Jr.
For years LaDarius “Lil D” Williams has been making baseball headlines in Tipton County.
From his days of shining in youth World Series to being a standout for the Brighton Cardinals the past three years, Williams has earned the press and publicity on the diamond.
On Feb. 2, Williams authored his latest news by signing a letter of intent to attend Dyersburg State Community College to play baseball for Head Coach Robert White.
“We’re super excited to come down here to Brighton High School and sign a kid like LaDarius,” White said. “I think it’s just a compliment to the Brighton program and what Coach Wickersham has done. He’s brought a lot of energy to this program.
“And we’re super excited to get him,” he continued. “He brings a lot to the table. Right now we’re looking at him as a position player. It’s just as interesting to look at him on the mound just because of the arm strength. To come in and land an athletic kid like him.”
Coach White has led the Dyersburg program for more than 15 years. He led the Eagles to a first national ranking of 15th during the 2008 season and has been nationally ranked multiple times since.
As the Skipper of the DSCC baseball program, White has sent more than 150 players to the next level, including schools such as University of Kentucky, University of Southern Mississippi, Southwest Missouri State University, Arkansas State University, Tennessee Tech, Austin Peay, Morehead State, Oral Roberts University and several ranked Division II and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics programs.
Along with White, Brighton Head Coach Michael Wickersham and several of LaDarius’ youth league coaches were in attendance in the Brighton Gymnasium for the signing ceremony.
Also joining Williams on signing day were his parents Marc and Beverly and older brother and former Cardinal standout Heath.
In the late 2000s Heath was a key relief pitcher for then Brighton Head Coach Brian Oswalt helping the Cardinals win district championships. Nearby watching was Lil D.
When he wasn’t practicing with is own team, LaDarius was watching his role model compete against some of the best teams in West Tennessee.
“He’s (Heath) probably the main reason I’m playing right now,” LaDarius said. “Growing up watching him at the ball field I was there everyday because of him.”
Heath was one of the inspirations for LaDarius gravitating to the game. According to Marc and Beverly Heath was a natural at baseball.
Beverly said at night she would hear a tennis ball bouncing off LaDarius’ bedroom wall. When the consistent knocking would stop, she knew her son was finally asleep.
“When he was about 2, he was swinging the bat,” Beverly added. “I got the video and I got the pictures. He was at the ball field not even walking still throwing the ball.”
Speaking of videos, the couple invested in training tapes for Heath. Inside of cartoons or programming like Barney, LaDarius wanted to watch those baseball instructional films.
“He was watching the training tapes,” Marc said. “You would hear him running in the living room and then you’ll see him sliding across the carpet going into second and into third.”
“Because of those training tapes he taught himself how to hit and throw left-handed,” Beverly added “He’s actually right handed. He writes right handed. He throws a football right handed. He dribbles and shoots a basketball right handed. The only thing he does left-handed is play baseball.”
Those tapes, developing his left-handed skills and family support led coaches helping LaDarius reach his potential to attract several colleges.
With his signing behind him, now Williams can concentrate on continuing to be one of the leading hitters and pitchers on the Cardinals roster. Coach Wick said LaDarius will be a key piece to any success for the Cardinals in 2016.
“He does it all. I believe he’s going to play first base for them and he’s going to be a hitter,” Wickersham said. “For us he’s going to be our No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher, plus play some first base. Plus he’ll be our big hitter. He’s going to be everything for us.”
Wickersham said Williams will continue to be a leader by example for his roster full of young Cardinals.
“He’s a great leader by example,” he said. “He clocks in when he’s supposed to. He clocks out when he suppose to. And when you got good players like that, the other player and younger players tend to follow him.
“It’s almost like having another coach out there,” Coach Wick added. “You know he’s going to do the right thing. And when he’s doing the right thing, he expects everyone around him to do the right thing. He’s going to be sorely missed next year.”
Wickersham said Brighton’s lost will be Dyersburg’s gain.
“Dyersburg is getting a great player,” he said. “Not only a great player, but a great human being. His character is unbelievable. I’m just blessed I got the opportunity to coach him for two years. He’s a special player and a special kid.”
Signing Day meant a lot to those involved especially LaDarius.
“It feels great,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to experienced. I’m glad it’s here right now.
“Lots of blood and sweat,” LaDarius added. “Tons of practice before and after school, it’s finally paying off right here.”
LaDarius said additional thanks goes to teammates, coaches, family and friends who helped him reach his milestone. But the biggest debt of gratitude goes to his parents.
“There’s not enough thank yous or anything I give to show how thankful I am for today,” he concluded. “I’m here today because of them. There are not enough words to explain it.”
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