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A big-league experience for SMSU’s Williamson

February 3, 2010

Southwest Minnesota State University catcher Andy Williamson got to experience a once-in-a-lifetime event on Jan. 27.

During the Minnesota Twins Winter Caravan's stop in Marshall, Williamson was chosen to be catcher during a workout session for Twins pitcher Jeff Manship.

It wasn't under the big lights of the Metrodome or Target Field. Nor was it anything close to Marshall's Legion Field.

Regardless of the setting, it was an honor for the Fairmont native.

"It was just a great experience," Williamson said. "It's one of those things I know will never happen again in my life."

Of all the things he observed during the workout session, Manship's seemingly effortless approach is what really stuck with Williamson.

"(Manship) wasn't throwing his hardest and it was fun to see how he can throw that effortlessly and excel," Williamson said. "It was fun to catch someone with that level of command."

Aside from catching, Williamson also pitched sparingly for the Mustangs last season, appearing in six games, allowing no earned runs and finishing with four strikeouts.

Williamson admitted he didn't ask Manship for any pointers, because Williamson's pitching style is a bit more unconventional.

"I have that submarine side-arm style like (Twins pitcher Pat) Neshek," Williamson said.

Watching Manship's control is something Williamson hopes to emulate one day.

"(Manship) had four pitches with great command, whereas a college pitcher will have two pitches with good command and a third pitch thrown sometimes," Williamson said. "His pitches were extremely sharp which I didn't know you could do with a Major League baseball, where the seams are more flat."

Williamson and some of his teammates also got the chance to play catch with Twins outfielder Denard Span, the other active member of the Twins to make the trip on the Caravan.

But the focus wasn't on Twins baseball.

"We asked Span about Florida," Williamson said. SMSU travels to Winter Haven, Fla., over spring break to play six games in a seven-day stretch.

"And Span was asking about our team and our upcoming season."

That upcoming season is quickly approaching for the Mustangs.

SMSU will open the season on Thursday with a two-day series with Minnesota-Duluth.

SMSU looks to repeat last year's success, when the team qualified for the NCAA tournament.

Williamson aided in the Mustangs' successful season last year, hitting for a .350 average with six doubles in 22 games played.

The Mustangs also look to challenge for the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference title, something that has eluded the team since 2002.

"We have extremely high hopes to get back where we were last year," Williamson said. "We're all anxious to get out and play and for the young guys getting their first start and getting the jitters out."

Ironically, the series will take place in the former home of the Twins- the Metrodome.

"It's a really cool thing to be playing there," Williamson said. "It's cool to be playing in the same place as the majors, let alone being in the same dugout as major league players."

It's back to college baseball for Williamson. But for one day, he got a glimpse into how the world's best play.



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