Monday, August 15, 2022

My Long Journey Home: Discovering Life After the Game by Richard A. Williams



My Long Journey Home: Discovering Life After the Game

Tell your readers a little about yourself, where you grew up, where you live now, where you went to school etc. Let them get to know the personal you.

I grew up in the town of Hesperia, California. A desert town along I-15 just north of San Bernardino. I was an only child raised by a single mom. I’d been a baseball player and fan since I was old enough to remember, and that was pretty much all I did or thought about growing up.

I was a big Dodger fan, so if I weren’t playing little league or getting games together in one of our friend’s backyards, I’d be watching Dodger games with all my favorite heroes. I devoured everything about the game and continued to dream about one day becoming a big-league ball player myself. In my senior year in high school, I became the first player in the history of our town to be drafted by a major league baseball team—the Atlanta Braves 17th-round pick of the 1992 MLB draft.

After leaving baseball, I attended Citrus College and Loyola Marymount as a film and television major. I worked in Marketing at Sony Pictures during my first several years post-college. I became immersed in the world of story development, photography, and editing.

I grew up loving the 90s and the grunge era. I would go to concerts and festivals with friends in Southern California, which was always a blast. I love to travel. I still enjoy Dodger games, Disneyland, and my new boat on Lake Mojave with my family.

I reside in Rancho Cucamonga, California, with my wife. I have four daughters, two of whom are from my past marriage and live on their own, while my two younger daughters live with my wife and me.

I currently attend a Christian church in town, am very involved, and love working with young athletes.

What inspired you to author this book?

After being released by the Braves, I didn’t know what to do with myself for many years. I felt like there was no one I could really talk to who understood the kinds of things I was going through. I know many out there have dreamt of doing something big, worked so hard, and fell short for whatever reason. That’s a tough place to be, and learning how to work through it is so important. But I never had a book like this at a time when I could have really used it, so I decided to write it.


The book originally started off as a letter to my four daughters. I wanted them to understand and know who I was and what I did. I wanted to leave a legacy of lessons for them of dos and don’ts. I never wanted them to ever go through what I went through, but if they did, I didn’t want them to waste years of their lives letting undealt with pain dictate who they were. Sometimes it’s not enough to tell people. Sometimes, seeing a story or action play out makes you understand things much better. I found that the more I wrote, the more I had to say about it, and the next thing I knew, I had a book. It worked out because I was able to speak to my kids and athletes. Now that it’s been completed, the feedback has been that it transcends just baseball and speaks to a lot of people about rejection, pain, self-worth, and so many other challenges we go through in life.

Where did you get the inspiration for your book’s cover?

I tried to encompass my experience into a single image. It’s me (in this case, my model Ryan) walking off a minor league field for the last time, and leaving the game behind, which is the ball. A long shadow would follow me as I walked off into the ordinary world without a clue what I would do or what the future held. No matter how I turned my back on this shadow, it would continue to follow. Above are the stormy clouds of what would be my life for the next couple of decades, full of mistakes and chaos. And as you get farther into the distance, you see the sun, which symbolizes a sense of peace and happiness I’d always longed for, but never quite knew how far away it was or how to get there.


Who has been the most significant influence on you personally and as a writer?

My all-time hero author has always been Stephen King. I know, such an original answer! But after years of reading his books, then reading On Writing, he just made the craft sound fun, doable, and adventurous.

I was fascinated with King’s process, which was to lock yourself in the office and keep the story secret under lock and key until it was time to share it. I loved that he doesn’t outline. He sorta puts a character in a situation and lets them go, then sits back and lets them tell him the story. That was incredible to me.

Now that I’ve gotten my first book down, I’m excited to tap into my imagination and see how I do with some fictional ideas I’ve had for years.

What were your struggles or obstacles you had to overcome to get this book written?

The biggest challenge was deciding what moments in my life to write about. I found that I just kept writing one crazy thing after another, and the chapters were piling up, and as I read back through them, I thought, eh, maybe this is too much. I didn’t want people to think of me like this or that. It was too shameful, and I had a reputation to uphold. But then, I realized that’s where the real story was. It was my struggle. And it was real and raw. And part of my journey was the realization that I had to learn to embrace my story. Not the fictional character I created for myself. For this book to matter to anyone, I had to be completely wide open and vulnerable. So, it’s all there for better or worse.

The other big thing was that I didn’t know how to end it. Let’s face it; it’s a memoir, not a Disney movie; I’m not that old, and real life isn’t exactly Happily ever after. I knew I wanted a satisfying yet realistic conclusion. Still, I could never quite figure out what it would be without lying. And then it hit me right between the eyes. I did have a happily ever after, and it was believable and authentic, so I went with it and won’t spoil it.

t your book.

I think my story is about finding purpose after a massive heartbreak. It seems like a lot of people often struggle to find purpose their entire lives. Some may never find their purpose. Some people have a purpose and live out that purpose, which is amazing.

In my case, it was a little bit different. I started with a huge sense of purpose at a very young age. I made a goal when I was seven years old, strived full speed ahead to attain it, and made it to a pro baseball team. And for a time, it was the greatest feeling in the world. And then it was gone in an instant, and I immediately found that I no longer had any purpose at all. That in itself was the most terrifying feeling for me. I was lost at sea with no compass or paddle. I wasn’t used to that.

And for years, I rode this mindset of I’m nothing. I don’t matter. I’m a phony, so what did I do? I doubled down, I continued to create this character or avatar because I knew the real me was a nobody, so I had to develop a somebody. And over time, that somebody became a vile creature. I never made peace with baseball. I never made peace with myself. I lashed out at the world for what I thought it had done to me. And said it would take a miracle to turn it around. And no, I won’t spoil that either! And then that unforgettable moment happened that set things in motion, and the rest is history.


Who is your target audience, and why?

I think it speaks to anyone who has struggled with failure, self-worth, and purpose. I don’t think you need to have been a baseball player. Baseball was my backdrop and my catalyst, but someone else’s may be swimming, football, music, or acting. Whatever it is, we want to do well at what we love to do and be recognized for it. We would like to believe that’s our sense of purpose or identity. And the last thing we want is to be rejected or told you can’t do this anymore.

I hope that this speaks not just to men but to women also. If you doubt yourself, feel like you’re a loser, you don’t matter; you will live a life like that and ultimately hurt yourself and others around you. All that needs to be dealt with and faced head-on. There’s no getting around it. I hope this book gives every reader a glimmer of hope, at the very least, who may struggle with those things.

What do you consider your greatest success in life?

Being married for coming on sixteen years. Knowing me, knowing how difficult I’ve been, and probably continue to still be, for me to hold a relationship with anyone for that long is a huge win. My wife will have a special place in heaven, I’m sure.

People will remind me that I’ve played pro ball, I’ve written a book, I’ve made films, I’ve graduated from a wonderful university, I’ve had a successful business that took me all over the world, but for me, that isn’t success. For some people, it is. But I found emptiness in all those things. After this journey, success is all about relationships. The longer the relationship, the more successful I will be. And lasting relationships are the most important thing in my life.


What one unique thing sets you apart from other writers in your genre?

That’s a tough one. If I had to guess, in the genre of sports, I’d say most guys who’ve played sports and wrote about it probably have a more triumphant story to tell. The Michael Jordan story, Derek Jeter, Serena Williams. I think I speak for the athletes on the other side of town. Incidentally, the 99% will never see a stadium or arena in their life, despite years of blood, sweat, and trying. A star athlete is not the norm. They are in the top less-than-one percentile—even less. They’re freaks of nature, and who can relate to that? Sure, we admire them, but we can’t relate to them, and I think that’s the difference. I’d like to think I’m speaking to the fallen majority and bringing some sliver of light and perspective to what might be a very dark or difficult place for many of them.

I think my other genre would be personal growth and faith. In that case, I guess I’m a lot rougher around the edges than many authors I’ve seen in the space, less refined. My grammar may not be as sophisticated as many of them out there. I don’t have the Ph.D. after my name. I’m not a pastor, psychologist, or academic who has studied human behavior and has good research to back up their methods for working with people like me. I’m more of the guy that just came off the battlefield, scarred and bloody. So, if I can help one of them in any way, that would be everything to me. I might be the example of what not to do, or how a parent can keep an eye on their kid to ensure they don’t let them go in the direction I did.