“The Big Marine” has moved east.
Long-time Arizona Diamondback player, more recently third base coach, Matt Williams left the desert for D.C. He takes over as new skipper of the Washington Nationals officially replacing retired Davey Johnson last week. It’s the next step for the former slugging third baseman who was handpicked by former Diamondbacks Director of Scouting, now Nats General Manager, Mike Rizzo.
“I’ve know ‘Rizz’ for a long time,” Williams told Brad Cesmat in a phone interview Tuesday on Sports360AZ.com. “So he said hey, do you want to sit down, come to Washington and talk a little baseball…got a chance to meet the Lerner family (who own the Nats)…and explain what I thought was important to that club and moving forward and they decided to hire me.”
Last winter he interviewed for Colorado’s managerial opening before the Rockies named one of their own, Walt Weiss, new skipper. Williams’ progression from player to manager was one he envisioned for some time after he retired following a decorated 17-year career in 2003.
“When I retired I did a little of the broadcast thing, little of the front office thing,” Williams explained. “Loved them both but my spot’s on the field. So once I started coaching I started to get that itch…it would be really cool to run a team one day or be the manager of a team one day.”
Williams says he will take the different experiences he learned in front office assisting with player personnel matters, doing the color work on television broadcasts and coaching third for the past three seasons with him to the Nationals dugout.
He takes over a talented team including young stars like pitchers Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper. There’s also a nice blend of veterans like Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and former Diamondback first baseman Adam LaRoche.
Washington is looking for a new voice and leader to bring them back to the playoffs and Williams says he’s ready for the challenge.
“There’s a lot more responsibility [managing], certainly. I’m up for that. I’m ready for that and excited about getting going here.”