New Orioles catching prospect Creed Willems planned on playing college baseball for Texas Christian University rather than pro ball only a few short weeks ago.

But those plans quickly changed during the 2021 MLB Draft. Willems had the opportunity to talk to a variety of teams prior to being picked, hoping to come across an offer that would allow him to forgo his commitment to TCU.

And the offer soon came around.

The Orioles selected the 18-year-old in the eighth round of the MLB Draft July 12. He then signed later in the month for $1 million.

With the opportunity to turn his childhood dreams into a reality, Willems feels confident that he made the right decision and will not regret his choice down the road. The left-handed hitter knows he can return to school to pursue his education at another time. For now, it’s time to start his professional career.

“It’s one of those things that I haven’t really been able to wrap my mind around like fully yet. It honestly felt like it wasn’t even real until the day that I signed, which was [July 22],” Willems said on Glenn Clark Radio July 26. “And from then, it was one of those things that, ‘All right, this is starting to feel real.’ … From there, honestly, it’ll be my time to shine and work and just work my way up through the ranks.”

In June, Willems worked out at Camden Yards and hit a home run during batting practice that hit the warehouse on a hop. Willems said his talent with the wood bat impressed those around him, as an 18-year-old typically does not display that kind of power. That energy only motivated the catcher to keep it going. In his last batting practice round, Willems hit one into the bullpen in left center.

“Overall, it was an amazing experience, and then being up there in Camden was just like nothing else,” Willems said. “I’ve been to a few other fields, and it was never quite like it felt hitting at Camden.”

Willems, who is now working out in Sarasota, Fla., is excited about becoming part of Baltimore’s organization and, of course, sporting the black and orange like he did at Aledo High School in Texas.

“Just from being at Camden, I felt like they were some of the most welcoming people and some of the easiest people to talk to compared to some of the other places,” Willems said. “But it was one of those things in the back of my mind, I had even told my friends, ‘I really hope I get drafted by the Orioles.'”

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Willems finished this past high school season at Aledo with a .412 batting average, 10 home runs, 44 RBIs, five triples, 14 doubles and 52 hits. His dominant level of play earned him 5A All-State honors. The Texas native spends considerable time working to improve his skill set, particularly his catching.

“I’ve always taken a lot of pride in my defense, just because the fact that there’s not many catchers — especially at the high school level — that have the ability to go out there and be able to also be a good hitter and a good catcher,” Willems said.

The former TCU commit works on presenting pitches and blocking balls along with his footwork and throwing to ensure he is at his best for each game and season, ultimately trying to make his catching skills an asset.

“I feel like catching is just equally as important, if not more important, than it is hitting, so that’s one thing I’ve looked at over the past few years,” Willems said.

And he will carry that work ethic and mindset to the professional ranks. Willems is excited to learn from Orioles catching prospect Adley Rutschman, another reason why he was hoping to be drafted by Baltimore. He admires Rutschman and the relationships that he has built with his teammates, hoping to one day be like him.

“Adley has always been somebody that I kind of looked up to — him and my brother. Being behind him, I think, will be one of those things, and it’s a good learning experience for me,” Willems said. “If they end up making a position change and I get to play alongside him, then that’s awesome. If not and I’m behind him, I would be happy either way. But it’s one of those things that I was happy about, especially considering that I had looked up to him. So I think it’s going to be good all around.”

For more from Willems, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kim Willems