TigsTown Q&A: Schuyler Williamson

In honor of Veteran's Day, TigsTown brings back an old story from 2008 about former Tigers minor league catcher Schuyler Williamson, who left the organization to fulfill his military obligations in active duty by serving overseas with the Army.

TigsTown: First things first, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to speak with us, and I'm glad we were able to track you down. What can you tell us about your current status with the Army?

Schuyler Williamson: Right now, I'm attending the Maneuver Captain Career Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky. This course will qualify my to be a Company Commander, and work as a battalion level staff officer.

TT: To the extent that you can provide details, where has the Army sent you since you left baseball in 2005?

SW: As soon as I said I wasn't going to play anymore, I graduated from my Officer Basic Course in February 2006 and went directly to Fort Hood, Texas. Right when I got there – February 2006 – I was assigned as a Platoon Leader, and I've been a Platoon Leader up until March 2008.

TT: Have you been deployed overseas at all?

SW: Yeah. I served fifteen months in Iraq. After six months [at Fort Hood], we deployed and I spent fifteen months in Baghdad, Iraq, assigned Platoon Leader to 1-5 CAV, 1CD.

TT: I'm glad to hear you made it back to the States safely.

TT: Can you explain a little bit about your decision to leave baseball and more actively pursue your military career?

SW: There were two reasons. The first reason was my brother deployed – my younger brother deployed to Iraq in 2005; enlisted. When he came back, he told me a lot of stories that disappointed me about his leadership. Just because I was playing baseball for the Army, doesn't mean I don't care about Army. I care about the Army, and I care about other men like my brother who were serving the Army. When he told me some of these stories about his leadership and what they did, it kind of hit home because my Mom and Dad sent their son over there under the supervision of a person that didn't take it seriously, or just cared about themselves. It was my younger brother, and up until that point in my life I'd been able to watch over and protect him. When the Army sent him to Iraq, he was under the supervision of an officer as his Platoon Leader. To hear the things that happened, it just hit home because here I am playing baseball for the Army, but I could be leading people like my brother and doing a whole lot better job than what his leadership did. That was one of the reasons. I wanted to go back to the Army to provide the leadership I think soldiers deserved. I'm not saying that I'm the best leader in the Army, but I do care; and these people obviously did not.

TT: Understood. You saw an opportunity to affect change, and family can be a pretty strong motivator in addition to that.

SW: Yes. The second reason why I left baseball to go in the Army was a changing of my goals in life, my dreams. Detroit gave me the opportunity to live out one of my dreams; playing baseball professionally. When I started playing baseball when I was five years old, that was my dream. I'm very grateful for that opportunity, but the more I played, the more my dreams were changing because I got married and was starting a family of my own. My dreams became not so much baseball, but spending time with my family. The deployment thing, you know, it happens. I thought I would spend more time with my wife and my future family, by being in the Army. I felt I could better provide for them and things like that. There wasn't as much risk involved. I totally believe I was good enough to play at the Major League level, but it would have been an investment of time and I would have had to take risks. Was I going to stay healthy the whole time? I just didn't want to base my family's future on those risks.

TT: Switching gears a little bit, though your stay was brief, can you identify a highlight that stands out from your time as a pro ball player?

SW: I think my fondest memories are just working with the coaches. A lot of these guys were a lot younger than me and the ones that were my age; they didn't have the same college background as I did. We were kind of at different points in our lives. Just working with real professionals that know what it takes to get there, and guys that flat out told you ‘This is what you need to do to get to the next level.' Detroit had the number one minor league program at the time, when I was there, and to be playing baseball and learning from that caliber of coaches; that was real special.

TT: Do you still follow the Tigers, or keep tabs on any of your former teammates at Oneonta?

SW: A couple of guys. I have not talked to them since the deployment. When you deploy, I didn't call my family but twice. Both Christmas' that I was gone, I called my parents. The rest of the time, the only person that I talked to was my wife. You kind of lose tabs on people when you get deployed. It's tough. You're working ten-plus hours a day on patrol. It's not like you're working in your office and you can just pick up the phone and take a ten minute break. I haven't been in touch with these guys like I should. I think in the future, the longer I'm here, the more chance I'll have to reach out to them. I try to check on them stat-wise every once in a while to see how they are doing, see who's sticking around and who's not.

TT: Have you given any thought to getting back to baseball as a coach after your military career comes to an end?

SW: I really do want to get back into baseball, but I think it's going to be more on a volunteer level. You know, contact a high school coach and go hang out with the guys and just volunteer when I can. Like I said, my goals are changing. The goal is to spend as much time as possible with my family, especially with those deployments thrown in there. For me to go volunteer on the weekend or during the week when I could be with my wife would be difficult. We do try to do some kind of charity work, where I go with my wife and we help out with some things, special needs people, etc. My thing will be T-ball, or something fun like that to bring me back to baseball.

TT: As is my tradition with all interviews, I'll wrap things up by allowing you to provide some closing comments to our readers. Is there anything else you want to mention that we haven't touched on already?

SW: My point of view on the World Class Athlete Program, because from what I understand, that didn't make it in the ESPN piece. I believe in the Army, that the best leaders are the ones that are participating in team sports. The reason that I feel they are the best leaders is because they know how to identify with all types of people. They have overcome adversity every year they have played sports; whether that be injury, or a loss, or something like that. So many of the things you do as a team athlete, as a leader of that team, apply to what we do in the Army. This World Class Athlete Program affects directly the leaders that play team sports. The guys that people want in the pros are not only the ones that are the most talented, but can also lead teams and square themselves away. West Point being able to implement this program gives us the opportunity to recruit what I feel are the best leaders in the world. I completely support this program, as long as the athletes themselves take it seriously. Captain Campbell has an important obligation to the Detroit Lions as a football player, but he also has an obligation to his country to be the face of the Army, and say ‘Look, this is what the Army has done for me.' If he takes that job seriously, he has the opportunity to reach people like myself, or himself for that matter, and get them into the Army in some fashion, than he is doing more for the Army than the average soldier as far as I'm concerned. We need leaders like him. We need guys that know how to overcome adversity, that know how to reach different types of people, and lead them to victory. As I said, I support this program completely. All my buddies call me and ask me what I think about the program. Is it the honorable thing? I don't think Caleb did the dishonorable thing. Somebody gave him the chance to live out his dream. That's what I did. If you say ‘No' to an open chance to live your dream, you're crazy!

TT: Absolutely. You still have an opportunity to use your chance to pursue your dream, to reach out and show some of those great athletes throughout the country that may have thought about the Army, that you can do this and have an impact on our country's future and still pursue your dreams as an athlete.

SW: Yeah. We have country music singers in the Army; that actually perform. There are all types of programs. We need people to go out and advertise it so that we can bring in all types of leaders.

TigsTown.com would like to thank First Lieutenant Williamson for taking time out of his schedule to speak with us. We wish him the best as he continues his military career and hope for the safety of him and his family as they serve our country!