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Williams thankful for his time in Arizona

Nationals' new manager has fond memories of playing and coaching for D-backs

PHOENIX -- The news conference introducing Matt Williams as the next manager of the Washington Nationals was done. He had taken care of all the one-on-one television and radio interviews, had met his new bosses and got a look at his new office.

It was a long but exhilarating Friday for Williams, and he was tired when he got back to his hotel room in the nation's capital, but there was one thing he still wanted to do.

So he picked up the phone and dialed a number with an Arizona area code in front of it.

"I want to say, 'Thank you,'" Williams said to the reporter on the other end. "I want everyone in Arizona to know how grateful I am for their support."

Williams' history in Arizona is a long one.

It began in 1987, when he played for the Triple-A Phoenix Firebirds, and continued from there as he chose to make Arizona his offseason home during his playing career.

"We still are members of the community there and will always consider ourselves that," Williams said. "I'm excited to be the manager of the Nationals, but at the same time, I wanted to make sure people back in Arizona know how thankful I am."

Williams was a member of the inaugural D-backs team in 1998, became one of the first recognizable faces on the roster and in 2001 he was waiting at home plate to greet Jay Bell as he scored the winning run in Game 7 of the World Series.

After finishing his career in a D-backs uniform in 2003, Williams bought a small interest in ownership, did some broadcasting for the team and eventually put the uniform back on as a coach.

"There are special memories with the D-backs," Williams said. "I was part of some fantastic teams, both from the playing standpoint and the coaching standpoint. I spent a lot of time there and have a lot of friends there that have supported me all along the way. So I wanted to say, 'Thank you.'"

Over the past couple of seasons as he began to think about becoming a manager, Williams would pepper Arizona manager Kirk Gibson and fellow coaches Don Baylor and Alan Trammell with questions about managing.

"I'm thankful for the tutelage I got from Gibby and Don Baylor and Alan Trammell," Williams said. "They were guys with managerial experience and they all were available to me to answer questions during this process of me wanting to be a manager. They were willing to sit down and talk and take time out of their day to give me advice and talk to me about it. That meant a lot."

Before his first-ever managerial interview with the Rockies last year, Williams sought the advice of general manager Kevin Towers as to what to expect.

"K.T. gave me some things to think about," Williams said. "It was a great perspective to get before going in there."

For Williams, saying goodbye to managing general partner Ken Kendrick and team president/CEO Derrick Hall was not easy.

"It starts at the top in that organization with Ken Kendrick and Derrick Hall," Williams said. "They've been great to me and my family and they run a first-class organization. They really do. The people that work there, it's a special place, and I just wanted to make sure that everyone knows how much I appreciated it."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.
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