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Rockwall-Heath’s Jett Williams controlled his own fate en route to first-round MLB draftee

FATE — Maybe it’s fitting that the moment Jett Williams’ life changed happened here. That this 5-8 infielder would become a first-round MLB draft pick in front of home plate, inside a warehouse where he’s worked, tirelessly, the last two years, within a sliver of Rockwall County known as Fate.

Because make no mistake, everything about Williams’ journey to this moment was controlled by him. And on Sunday, he saw his dreams turn into a reality.

Williams, a state champion and All-Area Offensive Player of the Year at Rockwall-Heath, was selected with the 14th overall pick by the New York Mets.

“I feel like if you put in all the hard work, sometime it’ll pay off,” Williams said. “I feel like my ultimate goal was to get drafted in the first round since I was a freshman. Knowing all this hard work paid off is really surreal.”Williams became the third Texas high school baseball player selected in the first round of the last four drafts, joining Jesuit’s Jordan Lawlar (2021) and Colleyville Heritage’s Bobby Witt Jr. (2019). Those two prospects stood above 6-foot and were long forecast for first-round stardom. Williams, defined as a “gut-feeling guy” by MLB.com, kept rising on draft boards to the point where scouts were willing to look past his height, the one thing he couldn’t control.

Williams is only the third player 5-8 or shorter to be a first round pick since 2012. The other two were right-handed pitcher Marcus Stroman, selected 22nd overall by the Blue Jays in 2012, and infielder Nick Madrigal, whom the White Sox selected fourth overall in 2018.

When the draft broadcast noted his height, calling him the shortest among the top prospects, a loud cheer came from the over 100 people in attendance at 7AR Academy’s clubhouse. It’s often one of the first ways Williams is described, but now it’ll come after his newest description: first-round MLB draft pick.

It’s a goal Williams has had since he was a freshman, back when he decided to write it on his goal board. His family knew it wouldn’t be easy, but they also knew not to doubt him.

His father, Rich, told him something he learned as a chiropractor: what the mind can perceive and believe, it can achieve. His older brother, R.J., shared a similar message.

“I always told him that’s a big goal, but I want you to set your goals high,” R.J. said. “If people aren’t laughing at your goals, then they aren’t high enough, and I told him that and he wrote it down.”

And then he went to work. R.J. remembers his younger brother joining him for practice when R.J. played for UT-Arlington.

“He just fit right in,” R.J. said of his little brother. “And I’m like man, he could come play for us right now. He was just that kind of dude. His height never mattered.”

It didn’t matter at Rockwall-Heath, when he helped lead the Hawks to a state title in 2021 and then turned around and dominated his senior season, as well, finishing with a batting average of .411, seven home runs, 24 stolen bases and 43 RBIs.

It didn’t matter when he spent two summers living in Georgia with a host family and playing baseball at East Cobb. He went up against fellow first-round picks Druw Jones, the second overall pick to Arizona, and Termarr Johnson, who went fourth overall to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“We wanted to see: how does he stack against the best of the best?” Rich said.

Very well. Enough so that his height didn’t matter to the Mets, who took him with their second first-round pick of the night.

“I’m just so excited,” Williams said. “I can’t wait to get to New York and get to work.”

Which is no surprise to anyone that knows him. The 7AR Academy, owned by former Ranger Robinson Chirinos — who FaceTimed in to congratulate Williams when he was drafted — will go from party venue to baseball clubhouse again on Monday morning. If the schedule of a newly minted first round pick allows it, Williams said he’ll be there.

That comes as no surprise to R.J. He’s seen his younger brother’s work ethic from a young age. He coached this past season at Legacy High School in Tyler, and though R.J. didn’t want to talk about his star younger brother often, sometimes there was a need.

“You say you want to get to a certain level, well you’ve got to put in the work to get there,” R.J. told his players. “So just using him as an example for those kind of things.”

It’s how Williams controlled his own fate.

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