PHOENIX — Devin Williams can pinpoint his moment of zen. It was December 2019 in Lucerne, Switzerland. He and longtime girlfriend Maggie Badock — now his fiancée — rode the historic Chateau Gütsch Funicular to a vista with sweeping views of the river Reuss on its way to Lake Lucerne.
Williams was coming off a 2019 season that changed the course of his career. He earned a spot in the All-Star Futures Game, then made his Major League debut. A year later, he won the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
But in that moment, Williams and Badock just sat there and took in the view.
“It was me and Maggie, the only ones up there,” Williams said. “That’s the most at peace I’ve been.”
To know Williams, the decorated reliever who is going into his first full season as the Brewers’ closer, you have to know about a love of travel that took root in 2018 in London and Paris. Like so many of the trips that followed, Williams’ boyhood obsession with soccer helped determine the destination. He wanted to visit Stamford Bridge to see Chelsea FC.
“I came off a terrible end of that season in ’18, and I didn’t know if I would have a chance to do it again,” Williams said. “I might have to work the rest of my life. So we took a trip.”
When a breakthrough season followed, Williams figured he had to keep the momentum going. He and Maggie visited Munich, Dortmund (for another soccer match), Lucerne and Zurich. The year after that, the couple vacationed in Jamaica, where Williams accepted his Rookie of the Year Award via telephone from his hotel room. In 2021, they were in Manchester to see Manchester United play Manchester City, followed by another few days in London. In ’22, they went to Dublin, London again, Paris again and Amsterdam.
Typically, the trip is scheduled around a soccer match. Williams loves observing the differences between match days in different towns, from the morning pint to the walk to the stadium. In Manchester, they befriended a Green Bay Packers fan. In Munich, they met a pair of restaurant workers and stayed up half the night talking after the joint closed.
The rest of the trip, however, there are no reservations. No agendas. Just wandering.
“Growing up, I don’t think he ever got to travel a lot unless it was for baseball,” said Badock, a fellow St. Louisan who met Williams around 2015 through mutual friends. “His family didn’t have a ton of money to put into travel, and every time there was an opportunity, it was, ‘Well, we have a baseball tournament.’
“It wasn’t until he had a couple of years in baseball that he was able to afford a trip. He loves to people watch and walk and shop. There’s something about being in Paris or London and hopping on an underground train and being in a totally different part of the city.”
To Williams, travel and baseball are connected. He appreciates one because of the other.
“I’ve kind of grown to look at it as my break period,” Williams said. “You get away from everything. When I go over there to Europe, I’m not seeing anything baseball-related.”
That’s not entirely true. Once, at the Nike store in Paris, he ran into a girl he knew from high school. When he met her boyfriend, it was journeyman infielder Adeiny Hechavarria. At a hole-in-the-wall breakfast place in Zurich, Williams bumped into then-A’s pitcher Jesús Luzardo.
Still, travel offers an escape from baseball.
“It’s a full reset,” Williams said. “The actuality is that in today’s age, [baseball] never stops. As soon as I come back, I’m going to be training again and thinking about baseball, all the way up until Spring Training. Then we’re playing and you have six months of the season. Then I get my break. I have to take a break and go off the grid.”
Williams and Badock don’t choose the timing and destination of their trips until Milwaukee’s season is over. Last year, they had wonderfully warm weather in Amsterdam in October. But Williams would gladly trade it for a winter trip if it means the Brewers are back in the postseason.
Badock has Japan and South Africa on her bucket list.
Williams is thinking about Italy or Spain. Perhaps he’ll find his next moment of zen.
“Those moments of stillness, like when we were looking out on Lucerne, that was such a special place,” Badock said. “You see this whole city, and it’s so big; but at the same time, it’s so small. It puts into perspective that life is not only about baseball or whatever you do for your job. When you stop and look around for a minute, life is about these small moments.”