Matt Williams talked about stressing the importance of "bringing your glove" to the park every day as soon as he was hired as the Washington Nationals' fifth full-time manager.
In an MLB Network interview this winter, the former major league infielder elaborated on the importance that would be placed on defensive alignments and attention to detail under his administration.
"It's interesting because defensive alignment is a big part of the game these days," he explained. "You just don't throw the gloves on and go play everybody straight up and look [to] your athletes to go catch the baseball and all of that. Today it's a little more intricate."
Williams brought now-former Arizona Diamondbacks' Special Assistant to the GM and Major League Advance Scout Mark Weidemaier with him when he left the D-Backs' organization, and the Nats' new skipper said it was Weidemaier who would be tasked with shaping the defense in his new role as the Nationals' Defensive Coordination and Advance Coach.
#Nats again taking full infield before a game. Will be interesting to see how deep into spring (and maybe the season?) this continues.— Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) March 4, 2014
"He has a fantastic advance scouting pedigree that comes along with him," Williams said, "and he'll be in charge of that and looking at our advance reports and tendencies of the other team and things like that."
Earlier this week, as reports come out daily of the work the Nationals are doing on defense and as examples of their willingness to experiment is evident in games, Williams was asked what it is Weidemaier brings to the Nats?
"I like his knowledge," Williams said. "He's, for the last 18 years, certainly, he's got experience on the field, but for the last 18, he's looked at the game from a different view than we've looked at it. So he's gotten a chance to sit up there and look and really take a hard look at what makes teams successful and what doesn't. And the reason I asked him to come was I think his knowledge of scouting and his knowledge of the intricacies of the game is great. Certainly the defensive part of it, I've worked with him over the last three years in Arizona on the defensive part of it, especially the infield play. And we worked well together. I think he's very knowledgable."
Day 19 of Nats camp, and they're doing full infield situational defense again. pic.twitter.com/hWS7dDcvez— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) March 5, 2014
The level of detail in his work and his willingness to express his opinions are things Williams said Weidemaier is known for, though the work he does behind the scenes might not get a lot of attention.
"You guys haven't gotten a chance to see it yet," he explained, "but the intricacies in which he produces his reports is unmatched. That I've seen. So, you know, that's why he's here. He's here to help with that. He's certainly here to help with the infield. He's got infield background."
With a coaching staff heavy on former catchers, Williams, who worked with infielders in his role as a coach with the D-Backs, said Weidemaier plays an important role with the Nationals.
"We have a lot of catchers on the staff and we really didn't have infield guys," Williams told reporters. "My natural tendency as the manager is to still try to be the infield guy but there are other things that I have to do now, so I needed help with that and Mark was the perfect guy for it and all those things combined make him attractive."
Asked to describe Weidemaier's personality, Williams offered one word: Passionate.
"He knows everybody," the Nats' skipper said. "He's passionate, he's funny, he's energetic. He's arguably the first one there every morning and generally the last one to leave. So, he's a perfect fit."
"The reality," Williams summed it up, "is he's really good at what he does."
"He's not afraid to give his opinion and be adamant about it and that's confidence for me," Williams said.
Williams worked closely with Weidemaier in Arizona, where the D-Backs fielded one of the National League's top defenses in 2013.
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"I think he was a great help," Williams said, "certainly in my previous position, and I think those results are evident. That being said, I think he'll also be a great help here and help us hopefully get to the next level."
When Williams wants information on a particular situation that arises in the course of a game he knows he can turn to Weidemaier.
"Again, we're looking at things that are... I don't know if it's different, but we want to take the next step in that intricacy to know, 'Okay, well, if we're going to play the line in the eighth inning, how many times in reality did that ball actually go down the line over the last three years,' as an example."
"He has a database of over 20 years that is proprietary to him, it is his own," Williams said.
"So, you ask him a question and he'll just rattle it off. So he takes his job very seriously and he's intricate in the way he goes about it."
So about that five-man infield against the Braves?
Your Nats defensive alignment. pic.twitter.com/KujDKgSZLR— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) March 4, 2014