RENO - One of the game's best third basemen and the only player to hit home runs for three different teams in the World Series came back to the Silver State to help keep sports afloat at Western Nevada College.
Matt Williams, a 1983 Carson High grad who dazzled for the Senators and UNLV Rebels before being drafted by the San Francisco Giants, was the keynote speaker at the 10th annual Wildcats Athletics Gala Thursday night at the Reno Ballroom.
Williams, who eventually won a World Series in 2001 with the Diamondbacks after coming up short with the Giants in 1989 and Indians 10 years later, addressed both the WNC baseball and softball teams before speaking during the fundraiser dinner. The popular Nevada athlete discussed the importance of staying true to the team, his dedication of wanting to play at baseball's highest level, as well as reliving his 17 glory years as a player and now his role as the Diamondbacks' third-base coach with dreams of managing his own team.
During the offseason, Williams' name popped up several times as a managerial candidate. Although he didn't land a position, Williams said he enjoyed experiencing the process and wants to grow as coach to land the new dream job.
"It's important for me that they called because it means they had some interest," Williams said. "We had some great conversations, talked about philosophy and how I would do it if that opportunity ever arose. It didn't happen. It's part of the process."
Williams, though, strives to learning new things every day and feels strongly about his future as a coach. Arizona's organization, he said, has been supportive and understands his desire.
"I get to work every day with some great people. Those guys are teaching me a lot and are supportive of my endeavors," said Williams, who coached a fall ball team. "You never know when the opportunity will come again. It was a fun offseason."
Reno Aces manager Brett Butler, who played with Williams on the Giants, is also waiting for his call to the big leagues. Williams said Butler is a great instructor and hopes he gets his chance to coach at the next level.
"He's certainly done a great job here," Williams said. "Managing in the (Pacific Coast League) takes patience, especially in a ball park like this, realizing that I grew up here and I know how the ball carries. It takes a lot of patience. He's a fantastic teacher, good motivator and good communicator. That's why his teams play well."
Williams was set on wanting to become a professional baseball player. From the moment he picked up a glove for the first time when he was 6 years old to playing for former Carson coach Ron McNutt's Senators and travel team, the Capitals, Williams wasn't going to let anything get in the way. He sacrificed trips to Lake Tahoe during the summer so he could become a better player as he starred for UNLV before being drafted in the first round.
"I wouldn't accept anything else," he said.
Although Williams works for the Diamondbacks, the World Series has been bittersweet. With the Giants winning two of the last three, including last year's Williams said San Francisco will continue to stay with him.
"It's tough when your division rivals winning the World Series two of the last three and you want to be there," he said. "But I do have an affinity in my heart for the Giants because I grew up as a player there. It doesn't mean I don't want to beat them every time we step on the field. I do know some of their coaches. Two of their coaches were teammates of mine. A couple other coaches I competed against when I was a player. It's nice to see good people have success. They're all good people and deserving. But we would rather be there than them."
One of the biggest things Williams stressed in front of the Wildcat baseball and softball teams, however, is chemistry. You can have a team full of great players but if they don't get along or let their egos interfere with the team's goals, championships will hardly come.
The Giants had chemistry in their title runs and when asked about the difference between a World Series team and one that missed the playoffs, Williams said the team needs to come first.
"Everybody talks about chemistry and what it is. Chemistry comes from people being on the same end of the rope, pulling as hard as they can," he added. "Goals are great. You have to start with being the best team and teammates you can possibly be. That's where chemistry starts. Wins and losses come after that, respectively. Chemistry is huge."
Williams, though, felt he got great instruction in Las Vegas and sees that with Western Nevada College's program.
"I think my college coaches were fantastic and from what I see from this group of college coaches here, they're pretty fantastic as well," Williams said. "They're teaching their kids how to play, which is great."
The Wildcats rely heavily on donations and fundraisers to keep their baseball and softball teams alive each season. Proceeds from Thursday's Gala will be used for travel, operations and scholarships for both teams.