He Who Holds The Ball Controls The Game
by Amanda Comak
VIERA, Fla. — The words sit atop the printed schedule posted in the clubhouse each day. They’re tone-setters, for the most part. Conversation starters, in an ideal world. They are meant to be the first thing the Washington Nationals players see when they check the schedule each morning, and to help put them in the proper mindset each day.
“He who holds the ball controls the game,” read the line atop Saturday’s schedule as pitchers and catchers went through their first workout of the spring, and manager Matt Williams’ first at the helm of the club.
In a brief morning meeting, Williams made his feelings on the potential for the team clear and he had a simple message: Whatever this season will become for a talent-laden Nationals squad, it started Saturday.
The quotes have drawn a lot of attention this first week. Players notice them. Members of the media are intrigued by them. Sometimes, Williams has warned, it won’t be a full quote but just a word. That will be their word for the day.
“I want them to talk about it,” Williams said later, during his session with the media. “As an example, today’s quote is, ‘He who holds the ball controls the game.’ I want them to have a conversation about that, and talk amongst themselves. This is pitcher-catcher camp, it starts with the guy who holds the ball — we can control tempo, we can control the game if we do things properly on the mound. I want them to start that conversation.
“That, and I want them to be reminded that that’s the way we think as a staff. We think that everything starts and stops with our pitching staff, and if we do things properly, we’ve got a chance every night. Pretty simple stuff, but it’s just a reminder to get them talking.”
The schedule runs through all 41 days of Spring Training, and right now there are 41 quotes or words of the day printed out.
As Williams’ session with the media went on, and more questions about the quotes followed, he chuckled.
“Really, they’re not that great,” he said with a shrug. “Most of them are not that great. But most of them pertain to our team, what we want them to accomplish, and how we want them to go about it, so it’s kind of (just) for us.”