Every baseball manager has their own unique ways of thinking about the game, and Matt Williams revealed one his quirks yesterday. A lot of coaches and managers discuss the importance of rhythm, but yesterday, in discussing how he coached infielders in Arizona, Williams correlated that idea directly to music and dancing.
“Just understanding them is important,” Williams began, normally enough. “Let’s understand what they do well and what they don’t do well. Address that they don’t, but accentuate what they do. So I believe that, certainly in the infield, it’s all about rhythm.
“If you have good rhythm – I always ask the infielders if they can dance or not. If they can dance, then they can play infield. If they can’t dance, we need to get them lessons. Then they’ll be able to play infield. So that’s all it really is. You play through the baseball and create rhythm and all that stuff. You become more accurate, all those things. I enjoy that part of it, I really do. And we’ve got some fantastic instructors here that have done some nice things with these guys and will continue to do that.”
Williams won four Gold Gloves – longtime manager Dusty Baker called him the best third baseman he ever coached. But he claims to barely pass his own defensive test. He danced, he said, but “it’s ugly, it is really ugly. But yeah. It’s important to understand that rhythm plays a big part in this game. It’s part of our routine and our process.”
As a player, Williams said, he used the ballpark speakers as a guide for his pregame routine. I had never heard anyone come close to describing this kind of thing.
“They always play music during batting practice, right?” Williams said. “And I would always try to get my groundballs according to the music. I developed that type of rhythm according to what’s playing on the scoreboard. With the beat.”
Last year after Rich Schu took over the Nationals’ hitting coach, he instituted a policy of playing music in the batting cage. Denard Span, for one, mentioned a few times how much he enjoyed hitting to music. Williams believes there’s a benefit.
“Dusty taught me early on as a hitter, ‘We always have music in the cage,’ ” Williams said. “So if we went to work in the cage, there was always music. And we would hit along with that rhythm, that rhythm to the music. That’s all it is. It’s not really that deep, but it seems to work.”
Williams described his favorite music as “something that’s got a good beat to it, that I can hear the bass of.” His walk-up song with the Diamondbacks was “Tom Sawyer” by Rush, which is awesome.
Alas, Williams didn’t make the choice himself. Walk-up songs were a new thing in 1999, and Williams asked the team if he could do without one – he had never had one before and didn’t want to start. But when they said he needed entrance music, he just asked teammate David Dellucci to pick one for him.
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