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FIRST-PERSON: A goal of glorifying God
by Tim Ellsworth
Date: May 16, 2003

MULKEYTOWN, Ill. (BP)--For the first part of his career, Woody Williams was banished to the Toronto Blue Jays and San Diego Padres -- mediocre teams that didn’t provide many chances for a pitcher to win.

Williams was an average pitcher at best. Although he gave his team a lot of innings, his ERA was usually above 4.00, and the most games he won in a season was 12.

But since coming to the St. Louis Cardinals late in 2001, Williams has undergone a transformation. No longer just an average pitcher, Williams has ascended into the league’s elite.

In 2001, after being traded to St. Louis, he went 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA and was a catalyst that sparked a playoff run. Last year, although cut short by injury, he was 9-4 with a 2.53 ERA. And so far this season, Williams is 4-0 with a miniscule 1.84 ERA.

Why the sudden change? Williams gives his defense most of the credit.

“The team here, the defense is incredible,” he said. “No matter how many times I try to get that through to somebody they don’t understand. Defense for a pitcher makes all the difference in the world.”

His performance on the field isn’t the only positive contribution Williams makes to his team, however. He is widely recognized by his peers as one of the team’s leaders, and he is one of the most respected men in the clubhouse.

“He’s a great asset to our team, not just as a player but as a leader,” Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny said. “There are a lot of things that go into being a leader, but Woody sets a good standard for guys to follow as far as work ethic.”

His work ethic and determination are a couple of things that characterize Williams. He wants to win, and he works hard at it. But it’s not just his competitive nature that drives him to succeed. It’s also his belief in God and his understanding of the way God wants him to conduct himself.

“Everything that I have is from God,” Williams said. “If I go a day slacking and not giving my best, then I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I just think it makes me that much more competitive when I get out there. It makes me wanting and willing to work hard.”

St. Louis pitcher Cal Eldred says he has benefited from being two lockers away from Williams. When he’s having a tough day or is struggling in his own Christian commitment, Williams is there four feet away to provide an example.

“That’s what a guy like Woody brings,” Eldred said. “He’ll admit he makes mistakes. But you know where his heart’s at and what he’s trying to do.”

The rest of the team knows that, too. Williams leads by example, and his lifestyle is a testimony to the God he serves.

“He’s not out here trying to glorify Woody,” Eldred said. “He’s out here trying to glorify God.”
--30--
Tim Ellsworth writes this column from his home in Mulkeytown, Ill. Write to him at bpsports@sbc.net.




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