Former UNLV baseball coach Fred Dallimore didn’t know if Matt Williams wanted to be a manager or a coach someday when he was an All-America shortstop on Dallimore’s team in 1986. But Dallimore did know that if Williams wanted to manage, he would be good at it because he loved baseball that much.
On Friday, Williams was named the manager of the Washington Nationals. After a 17-year career as a major league player and four years as a coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Williams, 47, is getting a chance to lead a team.
“I’m not surprised at all, given Matty’s love and dedication for the game and the quality kind of person he is,” Dallimore said from his Reno home. “It goes without saying how thrilled I am for him and how proud I am of him for getting this opportunity.”
Steve Moser, who played second base alongside Williams at UNLV from 1984 to 1986, said it’s an exciting day for the school to have its biggest baseball name land a managerial job.
“I think he’ll do a good job,” said Moser, who is assistant general manager for IMG College Marketing, which carries Rebels basketball and football games on its radio network. “Matt will command respect and demand discipline. He was a fiery competitor, probably the toughest competitor I know.”
Moser said that when he and Williams played together, he never thought about Williams running things from a big league dugout.
“He never talked about coaching or managing, at least not with me,” Moser said. “Back then, he was focused on trying to help us win and get drafted and play in the big leagues. So when he started coaching with the Diamondbacks, I was a little surprised. But he loves baseball so much that maybe I shouldn’t be all that surprised.”
In Washington, Williams will get the chance to work directly with another Las Vegan — Bryce Harper. Dallimore said Williams and Harper should get along fine.
“They’re a lot alike,” he said. “They both have a tremendous work ethic, and they both want to win. The fact they both played in Vegas gives Matty one foot in the door already with Bryce. Matty should be able to connect with him.”
Dallimore said if he helped Williams with anything in preparation for this opportunity, it was the straightforward way Dallimore lived his life and coached on the field. In his three years playing for Dallimore at UNLV, Williams hit .327 with 58 home runs and 217 RBIs. He signed with the San Francisco Giants after being selected No. 3 overall in the 1986 major league draft.
“One thing about me, I always tell it like it is,” said Dallimore, who coached 23 years at UNLV and had a winning percentage of .587 and whose No. 13 is retired alongside Williams’ No. 15. “Matty’s the same way. He’s going to be honest and straightforward.”
Dallimore said the fact Williams has been on the field recently as a major league coach (he coached first and third base for the Diamondbacks the past four years) should help his transition.
“Those guys in Washington know him, and they’ve seen him on the field, and they’ll get to know who he is very quickly,” Dallimore said. “He’ll have everyone’s respect in that clubhouse.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.