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David Price reflects on David Williams and the brotherhood of Vanderbilt Baseball

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David Price reflects on David Williams and the brotherhood of Vanderbilt Baseball

Simon Gibbs, Senior Writer

Former Vanderbilt Commodore and current Boston Red Sox pitcher David Price is known for his accolades.

AL Cy Young Award winner (2012), AL wins leader (2012), MLB strikeout leader (2014), AL ERA Leader (2012, 2015), five-time MLB All-Star selection (2010-2012, 2014, 2015), and now, finally, a World Series Champion (2018).

In Nashville, however, Price is known for far more than just his laundry list of accolades, or the numbers he may log on a scorecard.

He proudly wore Black and Gold for three years, pitching for the Commodores from 2005 to 2007, and helping Head Coach Tim Corbin build a program that has since turned into a perennial powerhouse.

During his time in the Music City, Price spoke about some of the immense relationships he’s built, and credited the Vanderbilt family for much of the resolve he now possesses. Between his fellow teammates, his coaches, and of course, former Athletic Director David Williams, Price cherished each and every relationship while in college.

Price’s Vanderbilt experience has informed him throughout his MLB career, and in light of Williams’ tragic death, Price spoke with The Vanderbilt Hustler to explain just how big an impact he had.

On David Williams

It takes a lot to be a successful athletic director.

Price may be looked at for the immense achievements throughout his baseball career, but he’s more than that. Similarly, Williams can be seen as the athletic director that propelled Vanderbilt to win their first four national championships, helped will the team into six bowl games, and even hired numerous beloved head coach.

But what made David Williams so special, according to Price, is just how much he cared about the student-athletes. As athletic director, he saw a personal responsibility to improve the lives of each and every student-athlete off-the-field, while also showing his support on game days.

“I definitely remember seeing him in the stands, you just could always find him at baseball games,” Price told The Vanderbilt Hustler. “I remember seeing him around campus, and at first, I feel like that’s a little weird. He was just everywhere, in the best possible way. I feel like at most universities you never see the Vice Chancellor like that. I mean, he was just always out and about, always around, and just so easily accessible. It was almost surreal to have a figure like Dr. Williams in my life. To me, he reminded me of my father a little bit. Just the way he interacted with people, you can tell that whatever he said was definitely heart felt. Being from Detroit, just being able to accomplish everything he was able to accomplish says everything that you need to know about David Williams as a character.”

At first, an outsider may see why it’s counterintuitive for your own Athletic Director/Vice-Chancellor to be out and about. Surely, their job description set expectations for the school’s athletics programs, but not for the way they carried themselves outside of the office.

As Price continued, it became abundantly clear that David Williams’ unprecedented achievements did not differentiate him from the pack. He played a critical role in the improvement of Vanderbilt athletics across the board, but as a student, Price noted Williams’ character and charisma outside the office as the most vital aspects. The way he constantly forged relationships with his students was unique for a number of reasons, especially when it’s uncommon between the students and athletic director.

“I knew our relationship, just like Dr. Williams’ relationship with any other student athlete, was extremely special,” he said. “Once I left Vanderbilt, I got drafted in 2007, but we had each other’s phone numbers. He would text me after good games and it was just an incredible feeling. He wasn’t even my coach. Technically, he wasn’t even affiliated with Vanderbilt Baseball, so much as he was affiliated with athletics in general. If he was ever in Detroit, whenever we had a game there, I would personally get him tickets and make sure to catch up with him at the game. He just never let his job title interfere with his personal relationships, and I felt like that was really special and really unique. For somebody to have the power that he had, it’s crazy that he would still seem like a completely normal person. He didn’t let any of that get to his head, he stayed humble, and he continued to work hard. That’s why he had the amount of success he had throughout his career.”

When asked how Vanderbilt students should remember Dr. Williams, David Price responded enthusiastically.

“See, everything I’ve spoken about is how he should be remembered,” Price said. “But, if you ask any Vanderbilt student their last memory of him, they’ll be on the same page as me. There’s only one way to sum up Dr. Williams: you’re always going to see him around, and you better believe he’s going to have a smile on his face. He’s just always around for his students, athletes, coaches, and above all, for his family. But his family included all of those people. He was very dear to all of our hearts, and he was just a very special person.”

On giving back to the baseball program

The Vanderbilt Baseball program has informed Price on how to learn from others’ advice, how to become a better person, and above all, how to improve as an athlete.

When Price was first drafted into the league, as a result of what he learned in a Commodore uniform, he felt more prepared than many of the other rookies.

“My experience at Vanderbilt definitely put me in the right direction to be able to handle professional baseball,” he said. “Whether it was on the field, off the field, myself personally, just the amount that I matured from the time that I first stepped foot on campus to my last day on campus. It really turned me into a young man. When I first stepped foot on that campus, I was still a young boy, and the three years that I spent there was definitely the best decision I made for myself personally.”

Due to the profound impact of the program on Price, Price decided to make his own contribution back to the program. In his three years pitching for the Commodores, his terrific pitching performance could’ve been enough. He was the first Commodore to ever be selected first overall in the MLB Draft, which certainly worked magic for the program in terms of recruiting.

Price had bigger aspirations in mind.

He wanted to be able to help out even after his playing days, which led him to give a $2.5 million donation to the program. It helped fund the top-notch facility that was built at Hawkins Field.

“As amazing as the renovations were, once again, Dr. Williams was the highlight of that event,” Price said. “When we had the press conference in the new Vanderbilt locker rooms, just everything that Dr. Williams had to say about myself, about Coach Corbin, just Vanderbilt Baseball in general was something special. That led us to keep coming back, because we already knew how special our experiences were, but we wanted everyone to have that same treatment.

We wanted the new guys in Nashville to feel just like we did, so myself, Sonny Gray, and Pedro Alvarez, we all went to the clubhouse this off-season with Coach Corbin to speak to the new recruits and their families. They had just arrived on campus. I think it was 19 guys there, and they came with their moms, dads, little sisters, little brothers, you name it. It was really cool to be able to sit in that classroom with probably 50 people and tell them about everything we’ve been through, whether it’s at Vanderbilt, in the minor leagues, and professional baseball. It is definitely second to none what Coach Corbin, the new Vanderbilt facilities, and the Vanderbilt family has to offer. I don’t even see these facilities in the big leagues when we go elsewhere. We just knew it would mean that much more to go tell the families ourselves that they had made the best decision of their lives.”

Williams and Corbin formed an immense relationship over the years. Their tenures helped propel the Vanderbilt baseball program into more than just a college experience. It now resembles a family, and while David Williams may no longer be with us, he will be continue to live on through the incredible achievements, integrity, and unity of the Vanderbilt athletics family.

“I get emotional whenever I talk about it,” he said. “What we have at Vandy is definitely something special. It’s a very tight brotherhood, and just to have that experience, I think that really propelled me into professional baseball. At the root of that experience, of course, was Coach Corbin and David Williams.”

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About the Writer
Simon Gibbs, Senior Writer

Simon Gibbs (‘21) is a senior writer for the sports section of the Vanderbilt Hustler. He is planning on majoring in Human and Organizational Development...

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