Dream Job? Sami Williams Has One

Sami Williams (left) poses with former Cyclone and MLB player Mike Myers (middle) and Mira Emma (right). Emma is a member of the Iowa State soccer team and is doing an internship with the Chicago Cubs grounds crew this summer.

A year ago, Sami Williams was blasting home runs, shattering records, and leading the Iowa State softball team to its first NCAA Championship appearance in 33 years.

The All-American and 2021 Celia Barquin Arozamena Iowa State Female Athlete of the Year winner is, without a doubt, the “gold standard” for Cyclone softball. The Laguna Niguel, California, native is ISU’s all-time career leader in hits (332), doubles (79), home runs (67) and RBI (180). She has the second-best career batting average (.393) thanks to a school-record .446 clip during her record-setting senior season.

Williams’ stature in Cyclone softball history is secure and she continues to achieve in her current job. And if you ask Williams about it, she might tell you it’s all a dream.

Each day on her brief stroll to work in Chicago, Williams purposely heads a block out of her way to Clark Street, a diagonal strip that takes you by one of the most famous marquees in sports.

Wrigley Field. Home of the Chicago Cubs.

Her walk ends there. She’s a software engineer for baseball systems in the Chicago Cubs organization.  

“I have an apartment near Wrigley Field with two roommates,” Williams said. “I’m close enough to walk and I walk by the marquee on my way in because it’s such a nice view and a reminder every day about what a cool place I work.”

All-American Sami Williams poses outside the Wrigley Field marquee.

Is this too good to be true?

Williams might agree with you. Although raised in Southern California, Williams was born in Illinois and “always had Cubs gear on when I was little.”

Finding a profession that fits a person’s major (software engineering) and passion (softball/baseball) is rare. The four-time CoSIDA Academic All-American and 2019 Big 12 Conference softball Scholar-Athlete of the Year never shied away from a challenge when she picked her major.

“Once I declared software engineering as my major, I was like, ‘wow, wouldn’t it be perfect to work with software in baseball or softball?’” Williams said. “The routes you can take with that, either externally or working for a front office, were possible.”

When Williams’ athletic career ended, she was busy interviewing for positions at a few major corporations. She was close to accepting one when she heard about an opening with the Cubs.

Williams decided to go for it.

“When I was interviewing for the job, I was so nervous,” Williams admitted. “I grew up a Cubs fan and I felt like things were falling into place. I really wanted the job, which made me more nervous because I cared about it more.”

Connecting with a Cyclone mentor

To calm her nerves, she sought advice from Mike Myers, a former Cyclone All-Big Eight pitcher who has strong connections in Major League Baseball.

Myers, who was inducted into the Iowa State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013 and enjoyed a successful 13-year (1995-2007) MLB career, is currently a special assistant for the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Staying involved with the game he loves was a goal for Myers after retirement. He’s stayed connected by being advocate for current and former MLB players.

“It’s something that I always wanted to do,” Myers said. “Being able to do this is kind of like a payback for what I received when I was playing and what all the players did before me. My job is to educate and inform current and past players about any issues that they have with transactions, or with something going on with their pension, 401K plan, benefit plan and healthcare plan. Anything to do with the business of baseball.”

Myers also wanted to give back to his alma mater. He became involved in the Cyclone mentoring program when Lindsey Long, Assistant Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Engagement and Letterwinners Club, reached out.

Williams was one of many Cyclones he had the pleasure to advise. Myers said he got the “cream of the crop” with Williams and guided her through the interview process.

Mike Myers was an All-Big Eight pitcher and a 2013 Iowa State Athletics Hall of Fame inductee. He spent 13 years in Major League Baseball has one of the most dependable middle relievers in the game.

“I told her to step out of her shell,” Myers said. “I told her to identify what you’re not good at to get better at. We talked about communicating and moving forward. This is here for you and force your way into the door. It’s very important to develop a communication plan for moving forward. She had a game plan for that.”

Myers earned a reputation as one of the best lefty late-inning specialists during his remarkable career. Williams was thrilled to have someone like Myers out of the “bullpen” to assist her.

“We had so many phone calls. For him just to take the time to chat with me was awesome,” Williams admits. “I had all these questions for him. I asked him about his experiences as a player and his experiences in baseball after his career ended. He was very helpful. It was nice to have a break from the tech side and hear about the baseball side. When I got the job, I shot him a text and he was really excited for me.”

Putting her degree to work

What does a software engineer for baseball systems do? Williams can explain.

“We have an internal software team specifically in our baseball operations department. That’s the team I’m on,” Williams said. “We just filled out an internal application for baseball operations. Pretty much everything you can think of in the baseball realm – decision-making, statistics, predictions – the app solves all that. We also build-out new features that front office executives want or scouting/analytics personnel might want.”

Williams received a head start in her career by attending spring training in Arizona, but nothing compares to attending a game in “The Friendly Confines” with summer approaching.

Williams and her colleagues have a game day work rotation, so she will have plenty of opportunities to relax and watch Cubs baseball as a fan.

The sights and sounds of baseball sometimes turn her thoughts to Ames. With a dream job secured, Williams has more time to reflect on what the record books show as the greatest career in Cyclone softball history.  

“When I was playing, I tried not to focus on the outside or things I couldn’t control,” Williams said. “Earning All-America status and making the NCAA Tournament was amazing. When we watched the selection show I vividly remember when our name got called. That was always the goal for us. When I came to Iowa State, that’s where I wanted the program to be. I wanted to be a difference-maker. It’s a moment I can now take a step back and appreciate.”

Sami Williams ended her incredible Cyclone with the most hits in Big 12 history.

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