I had the pleasure of meeting
the gold-toothed, future gold-glove winning centerfielder last year when he and
the rest of
It didn't take long to realize the only thing quicker than Smoke's feet (48 stolen bases last year) was his smile.
His smile and style of play; his main goal in baseball is to bring back the stolen base, made me an instant fan and as such, I made a point to occasionally check on the young man known, by his momma, as Marland.
One such occasion came last Sunday when I came across a Tennessee Smokies' Internet broadcast.
It was the eighth inning and our team had assumed its usual position – trailing -- when Smoke stepped to the plate and laced an RBI double to tie things up at 2-2, which is what the scored remained until the bottom of the 11th when our hero found himself back in the box.
It was here the 2,791 fans
who attended the game got to see that the 23-year-old from
"I picked it up my freshman year in junior college when one of my buddies saw me running and I was kicking up dirt and he said it looked like smoke was coming up behind me."
Mobile pitcher Nathanel Mateo probably saw some smoke of his own as Williams beat out a short single to lead off the inning, setting up one of baseball's classic duels between the impenetrable battery and the uncatchable object.
Except this time, the usual cat and mouse game was more like a one-horse race as Williams moved the 90-feet to second without even a throw.
The Bay Bears had been officially "Smoked."
It wasn't the first time I, or Mobile, witnessed Smoke destroy a team's chance at victory -- Williams hit a grand slam in the first game of the series -- but it was the most memorable, at least for me.
That's because when he touched home, I was reminded of something I knew from the moment I met him.
Smoke's going to the show. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it.
That's why I have no problem telling people "I know Smoke Williams" because
pretty soon, everyone else will too.