Matt Williams, who appears to be the choice at the next manager of the Nationals, managed the 2012 Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League. He helped guide the Rafters to an appearance in the championship game, a 4-3 loss to Peoria.
I caught up with right-hander Aaron Barrett and infielder Jason Martinson, two of the eight Nationals prospects on that team, to get their take on the possibility of having Williams as the next manager of the Nats. Barrett is one of the top relievers in the Nationals system, while Martinson was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg last season.
Barrett recalled how inspiring the first week of AFL workouts were last year. When he arrived at the field, he saw huge posters in front of the stadium that depicted former Diamondbacks stars Curt Schilling, Luis Gonzalez, Williams and others. He then had the chance to play for Williams.
“I was a huge fan of his growing up, watching him play third base in the big leagues,” Barrett said. “He was a big idol to me. He was one of the best managers I have ever played for. Goes about his business professionally and has a fiery attitude. He is very personable, but he wants to get stuff done. I had a blast playing for him.
“He would always talk to you if he felt like he needed to reach out to you about many facets of game. He liked to talk to us about what he went through in the big leagues. Coming from him, it meant a lot. He has a great attitude, a fiery spark to him and he is a lot of fun to be around. He would be a great fit.”
Barrett also believes that if Randy Knorr stays on as bench coach, Williams and Knorr would make an outstanding team. Knorr was also a leading candidate for the vacant managing position with the Nationals.
“Both him and Randy Knorr would make a great combination,” Barrett said. “They both have done a very good job. They are personable to the players. Davey (Johnson) did an outstanding job. (This hiring) could give them a spark in the clubhouse that might be what they need.”
Martinson said it was easy to play for manager like Williams because he related well with his players because he had played the game at its highest level for so many years.
“He was great to play for, definitely a player’s coach,” Martinson said. “From him playing in the major leagues and winning a World Series with the Diamondbacks, he knew how to communicate to the players on every level, especially with me.
“Working with him at shortstop and third base, especially with him playing third base, he brought a lot to the table. He was a lot of fun to be around. He took the game seriously and was very businesslike in his approach.
“It was a huge advantage to have the guy who is coaching you have a pretty dang successful career in the big leagues. We were soaking up everything he had to offer. It would be awesome to play for him again some day. All of us enjoyed our time out in Arizona with him as manager.”