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Nationals make it official: Matt Williams is no longer a Diamondback

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WASHINGTON – Arizona Diamondbacks third-base coach Matt Williams was formally introduced Friday as the next manager of the Washington Nationals, reuniting with Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo, who worked with Williams in Arizona.

Williams – who will keep his uniform No. 9, but will have to sell his current ownership stake in the Diamondbacks – said he is excited about the prospect of managing this Nationals team as well as managing in the majors, a first for him.

“I’m going to approach it with passion, I’m going to approach it with enthusiasm and a sense of work that I hope will make me a good manager and make us a good team,” Williams said at a news conference at Nationals Park.

Before starting his coaching career, Williams played 17 years in the majors, the last six as third baseman with the Diamondbacks, including playing on Arizona’s 2001 World Series championship team.

It was there that Williams met Rizzo, who worked as a scout for the Diamondbacks while Williams was a player. Rizzo said Williams showed leadership skills as a player that he thought would translate well to a position as a manager.

“He played on a talented team there in Arizona and there were a lot of veteran leaders on that team,” Rizzo said. “But I recognized Matt Williams as a guy that led not only by example but led vocally and by his performance on the field.”

As a coach, Williams seemed to have support among his players and had them prepared for games, Rizzo said.

Williams said despite his ties to Rizzo and managerial aspirations, he was not focused on the Nationals’ job opening while he was coaching with the Diamondbacks this year.

“I had a job to do as the Diamondbacks third-base coach, so I didn’t think about it very much,” Williams said. “I knew that there would be a possibility.

“Ultimately, it’s not up to me to decide, and I was thankful and grateful to get the call from Mike that he wanted to talk a little baseball with me,” he said.

After working in front-office roles with the Diamondbacks and as a broadcast commentator, Williams began working with some Diamondbacks players during spring training and in 2009 was hired as a coach. It was while coaching that he realized that his goal was to become a manager, Williams said.

Williams said he has learned from managers he worked with both as a player and coach, including Bob Brenly, who managed the Diamondbacks to their World Series championship. Brenly taught him to let veteran players lead the team if it has enough experienced players, he said.

Williams said he will bring Diamondbacks scout Mark Weidemaier with him to Washington. He said Weidemaier will work as a “defensive coordination advance coach,” creating a strategy for the defense based on what the team’s pitchers will do against different teams’ batters.