Springboard to Success

Todd Williams was a star baseball pitcher at Onondaga Community College who played professionally and won an Olympic Gold Medal in 2000.

  • High School: East Syracuse Minoa
  • Attended OCC 1989 – 1991

Todd Williams has played in thousands of baseball games at every level, from little league to the big leagues. He played professionally for 18 years alongside future Hall of Famers in the world’s most famous stadiums and won an Olympic Gold medal. His time at OCC proved to be his launching pad to success.

Williams’ Los Angeles Dodgers baseball card.

During his senior year at East Syracuse Minoa High School Williams began being recognized for his talent on the baseball diamond. Professional teams were showing interest. Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins offered him a contract. But Williams decided it was best to come to Onondaga Community College where he could focus on being a student and an athlete. “In high school I did not apply myself. At OCC I knew fewer people and commuted so I focused more on the classwork.” In 1990 he was named OCC’s Student-Athlete of the Year. “That accomplishment ranks right up there with the gold medal and my professional accomplishments. People laugh but it was special because academics did not come easy for me like baseball did.”

After just missing out on the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series in 1989 and ’90, Williams was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 54th round of the draft. He signed his first professional contract May 21, 1991 and was assigned to their minor league system. After two full years he was promoted to AAA, the highest level of minor league baseball.

Williams with the Baltimore Orioles.

Four years later, on April 29, 1995, Williams got his first shot at the majors by breaking camp with the Los Angeles Dodgers. His first game in uniform was also the first time he had ever been in a major league stadium. The opponent was the Atlanta Braves. “I remember, I struck out Javy Lopez to end the inning. I was excited but not overwhelmed in the moment because I always thought I deserved to be at that level.” Later in the season he would experience another moment he still remembers to this day. “In my first professional at bat I got a hit. Right after that there was a pitching change. While play was stopped I took my helmet off, looked around had the opportunity to take it all in. That moment is still with me to this day.”

Williams would also play professionally with Cincinnati and Seattle before being selected to play in the Pan Am Games in 1999 for Team USA. Even though they lost to Cuba in the Gold Medal game, the memories remain vivid two decades later. “The competition during that tournament remains the most intense because it marked the first time professional players were being used. We had the added pressure of finishing in the top two in order to qualify for the Olympic Games the following year in Australia.” Team USA would finish second to Cuba in those games and would go on to avenge their loss the following year by beating Cuba at the 2000 Olympic Games and win the gold medal.

Todd Williams (right) is pictured with his children: Trevor (in front), Trey (rear left) and Ally-Reese (center).

In 2001 Williams joined the New York Yankees and played for Hall of Fame Manager Joe Torre. He was even more excited to learn from Yankees bench coach and former player Willie Randolph who was his childhood hero. “Playing for the Yankees every day and putting on their pinstripe uniform was a dream come true. It was so surreal and something I will cherish forever, the old ballpark, the fans, the history – it was pretty incredible.”

Williams finished his career with the Baltimore Orioles in 2007. While serving time in AAA he became the all-time saves leader with 223. He admits it’s not glamorous but is still something to be proud of. “I look at that accomplishment and just say I was doing my job to the best of my ability and focused on what I could control.”

Despite traveling the world while playing the game that he loved, Syracuse and Central New York still remain close to his heart. “The people there treat me as ‘Todd,’ and not ‘baseball Todd.’ That was refreshing and provided me with an adrenaline boost and pushed me to compete at higher level not just for myself, but all of my supporters back home. I’ll never forget where I came from.” Today Williams resides in Florida and is busy with his three children who all excel as athletes.

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