New York Yankees great Bernie Williams, the centerfielder who won four World Series titles in five years, is recognizable to any baseball fan who turned on a television in the 1990s or early 2000s.
But instead of cradling a flyball in a gloved left hand, these days, Williams is cradling a guitar neck.
Since hanging up his cleats after the 2006 season, Williams has embarked on a successful post-baseball career as a guitarist. Williams has released multiple albums, been nominated for a Latin Grammy and maintains an impressive performance schedule, connecting melodies for crowds at New York City’s Lincoln Center the way he used to connect on line drives at Yankee Stadium.
Thanks to his father, Bernabé, Williams began playing guitar around the same time he started playing baseball, as a toddler in Puerto Rico. Bernabé had spent years as a merchant marine and brought home a guitar from Spain on one of his myriad voyages. Williams remembers his father playing that guitar as he would drift off to sleep, eventually sparking his own interest in the instrument.
“One of those nights when he was playing I approached him, I mean I was supposed to be asleep, but I just heard the music and I said ‘Well, if I get scolded, whatever, I have to do this,’ so I took a chance,” says Williams. “I asked him if he could teach me how to play, and he said, ‘Yes. Of course,’ and at that moment, it started this whole love affair that I have that I’ve had with music through my whole life, and it was because of him.”
Williams studied classical guitar, among other instruments, during his high school years at Escuela Libre de Música in Puerto Rico. And though Williams signed a contract with the New York Yankees at age 17, he never stopped playing the guitar. In between games, Williams would watch concerts and instructional videos, and strum his guitar before heading out to play defense.
The former Yankees outfielder told Fox News that playing the guitar gave him an edge as a baseball player.
“Playing baseball with a musician’s mentality was really cool, because not only did I get the obvious benefits of playing an instrument to get away from all the pressures of playing baseball and a high-performance environment, but also going deeper into the methodology of approaching the game as a musician,” Williams said. “That includes the work ethic, the paying attention to detail, knowing the body language, and being able to express myself through music, all contributed to making me a successful baseball player.”
Williams, however, was not the only Yankee to play an instrument.
Fellow outfielder Paul O’Neill, who played with the Yankees alongside Williams from 1993-2001, was the drummer during Yankee Stadium jam sessions with Williams. Also sitting in was Willie Randolph, the ex-Yankees second baseman who, at the time, was serving as Yankees third base coach and added some percussion for the trio. Williams told Fox News he learned about O’Neill’s prowess on drums by accident, overhearing his teammate while walking past one of the storage rooms in Yankee Stadium.
“One day, I was walking towards the batting cages, and I heard somebody just banging on some drums, so, I opened the door, and it was Paul O’Neill!” Williams said. “That started this jam session extravaganza that we had through his tenure and my tenure. We invited people to come in into this storage room and we’d have these great jam sessions. We had such a great time, and he’s a pretty good drummer.”
To find out more about Bernie Williams and the lessons he learned (and is still learning) from guitar, watch the full story in the video above.
Emily DeCiccio is a producer for Fox News Digital Originals. Follower her on Twitter @EmilyDeCiccio.