NEW YORK — When Nick Williams was given the biggest news of his baseball career, he thought it was a joke.
But Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan was dead serious when he told the outfielder Thursday evening that he was being called up by the Phillies and to head to New York.
“It was mind blowing,” Williams said before making his debut in Friday’s 2-1 loss to the New York Mets at Citi Field. “I wanted to say my instant reaction was that I was the happiest person in the world. I thought he was joking.”
This was no joke.
Williams, who turns 24 in September, was called up after Howie Kendrick was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain.
Wathan told Williams in a roundabout way he was going to the big leagues. The manager was joking with Williams about running out ground balls hard to first.
“He then said, ‘I don’t want [Phillies manager] Pete [Mackanin] to call you out because you aren’t running balls out,” Williams said.
— Marc Narducci (@sjnard) July 1, 2017
At that point, Williams realized his manger’s message: start packing for the big leagues.
It wasn’t lost on Williams that his first day spent as a big leaguer came in New York, the site of another recent milestone.
Earlier this baseball season, Williams went to New York to propose to his fiance Brianna.
“I actually proposed in Central Park,” he said.
After an IronPigs Sunday day game, the couple drove to New York. Williams proposed while the couple was on a carriage ride.
So New York will have a special place in Williams’ heart for a variety of reasons.
This was his second season in Lehigh Valley, and when called up he was batting .280 with 15 home runs, 44 RBI and an .839 OPS in 306 plate appearances. Last season in 527 plate appearances, he hit .257 with 13 home runs and 64 RBIs and a .714 OPS.
Williams tried to ignore any speculation that he would be called up.
“They always say you are close, and last year I heard that a lot,” he said. “I wanted to control what I could control, play my game and just try to get better each and every day.”
Williams said he was surprised by the news.
“I think it is a surprise for anyone, no matter how good or bad you are doing. You never think it is coming,” said Williams, who got his first big league hit on a single up the middle off Jacob DeGrom in the seventh inning.
And of course, this was one surprise he’ll never forget.
“It still hasn’t hit me. I am still trying to figure it out,” he said. “It is the best feeling I ever had.”