Astros sign Academy's Williams
GM Purpura on hand to see youngster ink contract
COMPTON, Calif. -- Houston Astros general manager Tim Purpura paid a visit to Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Academy on Monday for the signing of Draft pick Marques Williams. The outfielder was selected by the Astros in the 43rd round of the June 2007 First-Year Player Draft.Williams was one of five Academy players selected in the draft. He has been working out at the Academy for about a year and immediately caught the attention of Astros scouts and officials. Pupura said from what he saw on Monday, the scouting reports on Williams were very accurate. "He's built very well, a strong, muscular body. He runs well. He's got a little bit of power in his bat," said Purpura. "I liked his approach at the plate, it's very simple, not a lot of moving parts. He throws well. "He's got all the makings of a good professional player," said Purpura. "But the one thing I read in our reports that really caught my eye is that he always wants to better himself and he hates to lose. Those are the kind of guys you want." Purpura said that Williams is a team-focused type of player. "You want the guys that are trying to win every day," Purpura said. "It's not about necessarily their own personal achievements, it's about helping the ballclub win, no matter what level you're at, Major League level or Minor League level." Astros scout Chuck Stone signed Williams. Stone first noticed Williams on the Compton Community College baseball team and said he stood out because he was "constantly putting the bat on the ball." "You could see the development coming with each game ... and the power starting to come out, and the ability to run exceptionally well," said Stone. "He's quiet but he's got a little raging fire inside, he wants to succeed," said Stone. "He has good tools, the running speed is there, bat speed is there and arm strength is there, as well." Williams said he was thankful to Stone for taking time to get to know him and watching the improvements and progress he's made in his game over the last year at the Academy. "He could have taken a chance on a lot of players, but maybe he saw something in me that I didn't even know that he saw," Williams said. "I give all thanks to him and all credit to him if I have any major success one day. He's one of the only ones who took a chance on me." Williams said it's exciting to get to this point after all his hard work, and now he's just trying to listen to advice and learn all he can. "I'm just taking it all in, taking it one moment at a time and soaking up every moment of it," Williams said. Williams said he was excited to sign with the Astros. He was dressed to the nines for the occasion. He wore a suit and tie that he bought specifically for the signing. "It was an overwhelming experience, to be a late-round Draft pick, for me to meet the general manager, it's big," Williams said. When Purpura arrived at the Academy for the signing, Williams thanked him for the opportunity he had been given and told him that he was ready to play. Williams is scheduled to fly out to join Houston's Rookie league affiliate, the Greenville Astros, on Tuesday or Wednesday. Williams' family also attended the signing, including his father and mother, Vincent and Arlene Williams, and younger sister Shayla Williams, 18. The Williams family lives in Los Angeles and owns a restaurant, Honey's Kettle Fried Chicken and Bakery, with locations in Culver City and Compton. After the signing, a lunch celebration was held at the Academy, catered by Honey's Kettle. Purpura was glad to have the opportunity to meet the Williams family. "It gives you a better picture of the player when you can meet the parents and hear how he was brought up," Purpura said. "Clearly his dad has a passion for baseball, and he passed it on to his son, which is tremendous." Williams was scheduled to take batting practice with the Astros before they played the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday evening. "To see him hitting at Dodger Stadium, that will be a dream come true," said Williams' father. In addition to the signing, the Academy also hosted a workout for Williams and some of its other top players on Monday. Purpura observed as the players, clad in Astros jerseys, went through drills such as a 60-yard dash, plus hitting and fielding exercises. "It was cool, my nerves were kind of running with me, but that's part of baseball," said Williams. The Academy wanted to give Purpura a chance to see up-and-coming players. About 16 players participated in the workout. Several players from MLB's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) youth program, who also play at the Academy, took part in the workout. The RBI players attending recently competed in the RBI World Series last week, or had competed in the series within the last several years. The RBI World Series is the championship round of the RBI program. Current and former Los Angeles RBI players participating in the workout included Quinton Embray (RBI Juniors 2006), Josh Finley (RBI Seniors 2007), Darrell Hudson (RBI Seniors 2007), George McDonald (RBI Seniors 2005), Darren Starkes (RBI Juniors 2004) and Chris Smith (RBI Seniors 2007). Purpura said he liked what he saw at the workout. "Every time I come here I see the talent level keeps getting better and better," said Purpura. "That's obviously due to good instruction. These guys are getting well-taught by the coaching staff, and they've got a tremendous facility to work at."
Christie Cowles is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.