Local baseball player having a season to remember

Senior center fielder Daniel Williams (left) is leading the Malibu High School baseball team with a .542 batting average. His brother, Stephen (right), is also excelling. The freshman catcher is batting .429 in 28 at-bats.

Malibu High School’s varsity center fielder Daniel Williams is leading the Sharks this season with a .542 batting average in 81 plate appearances. The Sharks are 14-6 this year and are gearing themselves for a run at the CIF Division V championship.

By Kevin Connelly / Special to The Malibu Times

You might have run into Daniel Williams in and around Malibu over the years because he lives with his father, Robert, and his brother, Stephen, on campus at Pepperdine University. Running into the 5-foot-9-inch, 165-pound young man and seeing his long blond locks, you might have surmised that he spends most of his free time at County Line or Leo Carrillo Beach with a wet suit and a surfboard leash. If this is the case, you’d be wrong; Williams has spent this spring locking in on opposing high school pitchers and unleashing a plethora of hits-39 to be exact-on baseball fields all across the Southland.

“I hit well last year,” said Williams, a senior at Malibu High School. “But I was not as consistent as I could have been. I continued to put in work over the off-season and I had some talks with [head coach Paul] Gallo to try and improve my hitting.” Coach Gallo must really know how to talk: in addition to batting .542 with zero strikeouts, Williams has amassed 25 runs scored, 18 RBIs, seven doubles, two home runs and 16 stolen bases on the year. Williams has hit safely in 18 of 20 games this year, notching 13 multihit games over that span.

But more importantly to the selfless center fielder, his team is winning games. After a 10-1 win at Santa Clara High School on May 2, the Malibu Sharks are 14-6 with two regular season games remaining. With a 9-1 league record, the Sharks are in first place in the Frontier League and are guaranteed at least a tie for first by season’s end. One more win for the Sharks or a Santa Paula loss will give Malibu the title outright.

“My first goal is to win [the Frontier League] title as a team,” Williams said. “I’d also like to win the CIF championship. It is very important to me to win our first-round game this year in the playoffs because it is my senior season. If our pitching and defense can hold up, I think we have a legitimate shot to go far in the playoffs.” In high school baseball, one loss removes a team from postseason play so Malibu would have to win out in the playoffs to bring a CIF title to Malibu.

Robert Williams, Daniel’s father and a professor of Political Science at Pepperdine University, said the team has the talent to make a playoff run: “This is one of the better teams I have seen since I have been following baseball at Malibu High School. But, at the same time, there is a lot of good baseball being played in Southern California. We have lost three games by one run this year, so anything can happen.”

The father is admittedly a bit surprised at his son’s success this year. “Anytime a player hits for such a high average it is a surprise,” he said. “It has been a very pleasant surprise for me to see how well Daniel is playing this year. Daniel is a contact hitter; he must have really good eyesight to be hitting so well and his hand-eye coordination is incredible.” Robert Williams attends many of his son’s games, where he tabulates the statistics for the entire team. Williams has also created a blog for the Sharks, which can be found at www.sharksbaseball.blogspot.com.

The center fielder’s mother, Anne E. Arvin, attends many of her son’s games as well. She explained her son’s success in a telephone interview: “Daniel is a very determined kid. He puts his mind to something and then he goes out and does it.”

Along with Robert Williams and coach Gallo’s tutelage, Arvin attributed much of her son’s success on the baseball diamond to the parents of other players on the team.

“[Starting pitcher] Philip Johnson’s father, Rick Johnson, made 2005 Frontier League Champion T-shirts for the boys years ago,” she said with a laugh. After the final two league games of the season, the 2005 Frontier League Championship might even be official.

Daniel Williams’ brother, freshman catcher Stephen Williams, has also played a significant role on this year’s team. The soon-to-be 15-year-old is batting a solid .429 on the season in 28 at-bats, which include a monster home run to left-center field in a 9-8 win over rival Oaks Christian on April 8.

Second on the Sharks with a .450 batting average in 60 at-bats is senior second baseman Brett Weinstock. “Daniel is a great team captain,” said Weinstock, a friend of Williams since their tee-ball days. “I’m not surprised at all by his success this year because he has put in the hard work. He sees the ball really well and leads by example.” The 17-year-old Weinstock will attend Brown University in Rhode Island starting next fall, where he plans on pursuing baseball.

Daniel Williams has been accepted to Pepperdine University, where he will study political science. He said he has had contact with Pepperdine’s head baseball coach, but is unsure whether or not he will pursue baseball at Pepperdine- a perennial force in the NCAA and winner of the national championship in 1992.

The Sharks will play their final regular season game against Santa Paula at 3:30 p.m. on May 12 at Malibu High School. Playoff dates for the Sharks have yet to be announced.