The photo says it all. Former MLB star and Yankees lifer Bernie Williams is living his life. After 16 seasons in MLB with the Bronx Bombers, including an American League batting title and four World Series trophies, the longtime centerman is enjoying a life after baseball that includes music.
The 54-year-old native of San Juan, Puerto Rico is a classically trained guitarist whose style combining jazz, classical, pop music and Latin sounds has brought him to recordings alongside well-known maestros like Jon Secada and even Bruce Springsteen.
As a Yankee, Williams says he often brought his guitar on road trips. But it was after his baseball days ended in 2006 that his musical inclinations grew and expanded into new styles.
“When my playing career ended, it became a full-time passion, and I had a lot more time to practice, compose original songs and create new arrangements of some jazz classics, blues and even pop.
His efforts in music led to the composition and release of two albums, the second of which, titled To advance, earned a Grammy nod. The 2009 release also made it onto five different Billboard charts, the magazine’s main pop chart, the Billboard 200, while also going No. 2 atop the Top Contemporary Jazz chart, in 2010.
Along with enjoying music and baseball, Williams also says that now that he’s in his 50s, optimal health and a good quality of life are extremely important to him.
“I’ve always felt it’s a privilege to use my position as an athlete and a musician to be active in the community and support important causes close to my heart, as well as my teammates, fellow musicians and colleagues in business,” Williams said during our interview this week.
He added that one illness in particular, liver disease, affected several members of his family, including his mother, uncle and grandfather.
As such, Williams has partnered with a non-profit organization called Blue Faery aka The Adrienne Wilson Liver Cancer Association, as well as the Global Liver Institute and Eisai Pharmaceutical to promote their A liver to love country. The partnership provides education and support for people with liver cancer and their caregivers.
Williams says a big part of his role as a spokesperson involves what he calls the simple but “meaningful things that impact liver health,” such as “nutrition, exercise, sleep, and mental health”.
I spoke with Williams at length this week, not only about off-court projects and his time with the Yankees, but also his thoughts on the 2022 World Series, in which the Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros are currently at tied at one game each. . Game 3 of the series is scheduled for Monday night.
Andy Frie: The Phillies entered as underdogs to the Astros in the series. How can Philadelphia beat Houston?
Bernie Williams: The Phillies are the perfect example of a team that got together and went red at the right time. To say you have a third-place team that hasn’t even won 90 games – now three wins away from a World Championship.
They have two aces in Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola, a gritty bullpen that’s been turned off when it matters most, and have some firepower in their roster, with Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins and an iconic superstar in Bryce Harper, who seems appreciate his role as team leader and support him through his performance.
The Astros are as complete a team as you will see, but as everyone has clearly seen in this post-season, the Phillies are currently capable of beating anyone. They’ve paraded in the National League, including knocking out the reigning world champions, and I think they have a good chance of winning it all. I expect a long and tough World Series. I hope it’s a classic.
AF: With New York, you won one batting title and four World Series. What were your proudest moments as a Yankee?
Williams: Well, it’s pretty hard to win a World Championship, and I feel so lucky to have played in six World Series and won four. But hands down, without hesitation, my proudest moment as a Yankee was something that didn’t even happen on the field.
The September 11 terrorist attacks on our city were a life-changing event for all of us and looking back on it. When we were all trying to process all of this, playing baseball was the last thing on my mind. While our games were suspended, our entire team got together and we all got off on buses to lower Manhattan.
We were able to go to the hospitals and visit the injured from the attack, as well as the first responders who were housed at the Javitz Center, but what struck me the most was our very first visit to the city when we arrived at the old armoury, which has been converted into a center where families gathered, bringing personal artifacts and DNA samples from loved ones to match the recovered remains.
Related story: Derek Jeter says baseball prepared him for business
Although our visit was not long, we saw that even for a brief moment we were able to lift our spirits with everyone supporting them and praying for them. It was where we were supposed to be back then.
AF: As a Yankees lifer, it must have been tough watching them get swept away. What do you see happening for the club, Aaron Judge, manager Aaron Boone?
It’s never easy to see your season end, and the Yankees really hit a buzz with an Astros team that outplayed them.
They were the best team in this series, but they’re a Yankee team that won 99 games and the division title, and earlier in the season – when it was running on all cylinders – looked unbeatable most days and drew comparisons to our 1998 team which won 125 games and a world championship. Injuries to key players certainly decimated the team, especially the loss of DJ LeMahieu and Andrew Benintendi, (and) their bullpen was a lot to overcome. Still, I have no doubt that they will look at their greatest needs and reload, and field a team next season that has a shot at winning the World Series.
Aaron Judge had one of the most remarkable and complete seasons in baseball history – and gave his best when he decided to bet on himself not signing a contract extension during his walk year – is a right he earned as a player, and now he will become a free agent and has the ability to choose where he wants to play for the next few years.
I believe and truly hope that he will remain a Yankee for life – where he has a chance to become the next team captain and follow in the footsteps of great Yankees like Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry, Willie Randolph, Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter.
Aaron Boone holds one of the most prestigious jobs you can have in all of sports – manager of the most legendary franchise in baseball history. The Yankees have reached the playoffs every year Aaron has led this club. I think he continues to learn and grow every year, and he has unfinished business that he has earned the right to pursue.
AF: Music occupies an important place in your life. Talk about that and your nod to the Grammys.
Williams: I started playing music and baseball at the same time, around the age of 8. My father, who was a merchant sailor and traveled the world, brought a guitar back from Spain and soon after taught me how to play – and that was all it took. I was addicted to music.
I then attended a performing arts high school in my native Puerto Rico and even though I signed a contract to play professional baseball, music remained a big part of my life and I always had my guitar. with me on the road. I released my first studio album, The inner journey in 2003, after recording it off-season.
I released a second album, To advance, in 2009, which contained many songs that I had written when I had stopped playing baseball. I had the opportunity to collaborate with some of the best musicians in the industry on this album, like Jon Secada, Dave Koz, Mike Stern, Scott Henderson to name a few. We even added a live bonus track that I performed with Bruce Springsteen and there’s an acoustic version of “Glory Days” that was recorded at Joe Torre’s Safe at Home Foundation dinner. Also, my instrumental ballad version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” has become a classic finale to all my live performances.
Read Frye’s Q&A with Rhys Hoskins and Derek Jeter.
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