WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – The Nationals introduced manager Matt Williams on Friday, marking the official beginning to his first opportunity to manage at the big league level.
Williams, who’s known Mike Rizzo since 1999, laid out his earliest conversation with the Nationals GM and Vice President of Baseball Operations regarding what it takes to become a manager; a fortuitous conversation which very likely put Williams in the driver’s seat when the Nationals’ position became available.
“I saw Mike about two and a half years ago,” Williams told 106.7 The Fan’s Holden and Danny. “And I asked him, I said, ‘Mike, give me your opinion. If I wanted to manage at the big league level, what do I need to do? What do I need to accomplish?’”
“He said, ‘Well you gotta manage,’” Williams recalled. “He said ‘You have to either do that in the Arizona Fall League, or you need to go to winter ball and manage, cause you’re not gonna get a chance, you’re a big league coach now. You could certainly go back to the minor leagues and do it, but you’re a big league coach, so you gotta manage. You gotta get some kind of experience to have somebody take you seriously.’ So we just happened to have, as the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, the manager’s spot in the Fall League last year, so I asked to participate.”
“He said, ‘You have to get as much experience, talk to as many people as you can, and get as much experience within this game as you can, if you want to manage,’” Williams continued. “So I tried to coach first, I tried to coach third, I’ve done some baserunning stuff, I’ve done some different stuff in spring training, certainly the infield coach, helped with the outfield, did the schedule, all of those things that are there. Mike told me to do that, so we started talking about it then, and I tried to get kind of on board on all of those particular subjects so if it came up, I’d have some experience at it. And here I am. Never managed in the big leagues before, but certainly I think I’m prepared to do so.”
As for how Williams became so familiar with the Nationals’ lineup – an integral key to him earning the job, as Rizzo made note of in the press release announcing Williams as manager – he credits his drive to speak to anyone and everyone in-the-know at every turn, giving you the sense he truly created his own opportunities every step of the way, which led to him to where he is today.
“I managed some of their guys last year,” Williams said of the Fall League. “Talked a lot with Doug Harris, the minor league director, on all the guys that I had, and the guys that were coming, certainly the young pitching that is in this organization that is on the verge of taking that next step. So, just researching guys, looking at guys, talking to people — I think that’s important. If you talk to people that know, then you get pretty good information sometimes.”