Hometown hero lends a hand
Matt Williams is coming home.
The Carson High School graduate who is a World Series winner and five-time All-Star will headline the 10th annual Western Nevada College Athletics Gala on Thursday, Jan. 24, at the Downtown Reno Ballroom.
“It will be fun to come home and see some familiar faces and be part of the event,” Williams said. “I’m honored that they asked me to be part of it.
“This (Carson City) is where I learned to play the game. This is where I played Little League, high school ball, American Legion ball, and got the chance through Coach (Ron) McNutt and the program there to travel the U.S. and play in Hawaii. All those memories will come flooding back, I’m sure.”
By the time Williams graduated from Carson High School in 1983, the power-hitting third baseman was well known to college recruiters and baseball scouts. “The Carson Crusher” went on to play at UNLV before being selected by the San Francisco Giants with the third pick in the 1986 draft. He quickly ascended to the big leagues, playing in 84 games for the Giants in 1987.
Williams also played for the Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks.
All told, he hit 378 home runs, batted .268 and knocked in 1,218 runs. He was selected to five All-star teams and earned four Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. He also holds the distinction of being the only player to homer for three different teams in the World Series. In 2001, he became a World Series champion with the Diamondbacks.
For the past two years, he has been third-base coach for the Diamondbacks.
Recently, he coached the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League.
“It was a good experience and something that I will take with me,” Williams said. “I really enjoyed learning how to get players to play to the best of their abilities.”
General managers are beginning to take notice of Williams’ baseball knowledge. Earlier this fall, he was a finalist for the Colorado Rockies job that ultimately was landed by Walt Weiss. He was also contacted by the Toronto Blue Jays before they re-hired manager John Gibbons.
“I want to get to the top of my profession, and that’s important now that I don’t play anymore,” Williams said. “I got a taste of it, and it was fun to go through the process. You never know what might be out there in the future.”
Williams said he respects what Wildcats baseball coach DJ Whittemore and others have done with WNC’s program in a short time. WNC has made three appearances at the Junior College World Series since the program launched in 2006.
“It’s one thing to have a program and another for people to respect it and want to be a part of it,” Williams said. “They have done a very nice job of putting it in place and succeeding, and it’s an opportunity for kids in the area to stay home and continue to play the game while they are getting their education.
“It’s a little different game these days. For college players, it’s important for them to play and continue their education, understanding that baseball might not be their final stop.”
“We are thrilled to welcome Matt back home,” said Katie Leao, WNC director of development. “We know that Matt is a stellar example of the kind of person and athlete that our softball and baseball student athletes aspire to be.”
Funding is an issue for the WNC teams. Both softball and baseball play in the Scenic West Conference against schools from Idaho, Utah and Nevada.
Williams said he can relate to the financial challenges Western Nevada College faces to support its intercollegiate baseball and softball programs.
“The fact that he’s coming to speak is exciting for everyone,” said WNC softball coach Leah Wentworth, whose 2012 club set a school record for victories and was named an Academic All-American team.
The event will also benefit Carson High School baseball and softball.
Tickets are $100, with tables of 10 for $850 through December 31 and
They are available through the WNC Foundation at 445-3240 or at http://www.wnc.edu/wildcatsgala.