Williams’ father speaks of son’s retirement
June 13, 2003
Matt Williams’ sharp descent from World Series champion to unemployed in less than two years is mind boggling. But when the 38-year-old announced his retirement on Thursday from professional baseball after 17 seasons, there was one person who wasn’t surprised — his father, Arthur.
“I think it’s about time,” said the elder Williams from his Carson City home on Thursday. “He’s ready. He’s had a lot of injuries the last three or four years and those have really hurt him. I talked to him three or four days ago and he told me ‘I think it’s time.’ He said how it hurt to get out of bed and go to the ball field every morning. He had a good career. Well, he had a great career.”
It won’t be bad being remembered as a five-time all star and World Series champ. But for a career that never seemed in jeopardy, things went bad in a hurry for Matt Williams. The 1983 Carson High graduate had suffered through several injuries the past few seasons, which led to decreased productivity for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who he has played with since their inaugural year in 1998.
Before this season, Arizona tried to make a trade that would’ve sent Williams to the Colorado Rockies for Larry Walker. However, he blocked the trade because he didn’t want to uproot his three children, ages 10, 12 and 13, from the Phoenix area, which Williams has called home for more than a decade. He has full custody of his three children.
In late May, the Diamondbacks, who have been struggling offensively, traded for Boston Red Sox third baseman Shea Hillenbrand. The move sent a clear message to Williams that his playing time would most likely diminish, if not vanish.
He was used as a pinch hitter in a game against the San Diego Padres soon after the trade, which made him realize what was going to be inevitable. Arizona released Williams that same night, a move Arthur Williams said was self-induced.
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“He’s not unhappy about how it all worked out,” Arthur Williams said. “When he and Bob (Brenly, Arizona’s manager) talked about things, he had told Matty that he wanted to make a trade and that he would want him to play every third or fourth day or be a pinch hitter. Matty told him ‘I don’t want to do that. I’m not built that way. I’ve always been a starter. It’s not a game, it’s business. And Matty knows that. I don’t think he appreciated how it all worked out, but he’s not unhappy about it.”
Matt Williams had offers from the Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs but declined both.
“He’s pretty entrenched in the Phoenix area. He didn’t want to go to Colorado before the season because of his kids and he didn’t want to go now,” Arthur Williams said. “I know he had some offers but he didn’t wanted to do it. I thought he might go to Chicago, only because of Dusty (Baker, Cubs’ manager). They’ve always had a pretty close friendship. They hunt and fish together in the off season.”
Baker was Williams’ manager for several seasons when the two were with the San Francisco Giants, which is the team the former UNLV star made his professional debut. He also played with the Cleveland Indians before becoming one of the original members of Arizona’s expansion franchise more than five years ago.
When the Diamondbacks won the 2001 World Series against the New York Yankees, Arthur Williams imagined a moment like that as his son’s lasting memory, not the one actually played out.
“It’s not the way I would’ve have liked to see it happen, but that’s the way it is,” Arthur Williams said. “Him and his brothers will probably go into a business of some kind. He has three or four other things he’s got in the fire. He told me a while ago that he wanted to move back to Carson City. But I don’t think that will happen because he told me once ‘What would I do there?'”
Williams’ coach at Carson High, Ron McNutt, said he was pleased for his former player that he made the decision that was best for him. But McNutt also said he’ll miss watching Williams play.
“I’m happy for Matt really because the decision he made is best for him and his family,” McNutt said.
While Williams had an outstanding career, more important was the way he conducted himself, McNutt said.
“He was a class act,” McNutt said. “Everything that he did was in a professional way. I always thought he conducted himself in a very professional manner.”