Winter Meetings 2014: Catching up with Matt Williams, Tommy Shields joins Minor League staff & more

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals play the Atlanta BravesAs the 2014 MLB Winter Meetings head into their second day, Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams will meet with the media this afternoon in San Diego. The National League Manager of the Year enters his second season at the helm looking to help the team improve on what was a very successful 2014 season.

Before Williams meets with the media, he spent a few minutes catching up on the year that was and more:

From where you were last year at this time, how do you reflect on how everything has gone?

I think it was a successful season for us. I think it was satisfying, yet unsatisfying at the same time because we weren’t the last ones standing — and that’s why we’re all here. So, a very positive step in the right direction and hopefully many more steps to come. 

Do you feel more focused or sure of what you’re looking for at these meetings than maybe you were in 2013? 

I think I’m a little more comfortable because I know everybody. Last year was a sort of “getting-to-know-you” process. This year, I’m a little more comfortable with our group and our fantastic group of scouts and front office folks. But I still have butterflies, like everybody else does, in anticipation of the upcoming season so I’m excited and looking forward to February.

What do you think your biggest accomplishment of the past year?

I just think the ability to understand our players, and help them, and put them in a position to succeed. We had a lot of guys who had great years and I think that’s probably the biggest accomplishment I can point to — and ultimately my job is to put them in a position to succeed and do the best they can. If each individual can do that then we have a very good chance of succeeding as a team.

What are you most looking forward to in 2015?

Just the opportunity to get back to the postseason. We want to play meaningful games in September and October. We had a little bit of a taste of it this year and we want to certainly get back there and see if we can go further this time.

What was your reaction to being named the 2014 BBWAA NL Manager of the Year?

I’m extremely proud of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) Award as well. It means to me that we have a fantastic organization and that everybody is on the same end of the rope, pulling as hard as they can to have success and be a championship club. I’m proud to be able to go to New York in January and represent us and accept that award on behalf of our organization.

***

The Nationals have added Tommy Shields to their Minor League staff, naming him co-field coordinator on Tuesday. Shields, a Fairfax, VA, native, joins Jeff Garber in that role.

Shields comes to the Nationals after spending three seasons as the manager of the Burlington Royals in the Kansas City Royals’ chain. Shields earned the Appalachian League Manager of the Year honors in 2012.

He played parts of eight Minor League seasons in the Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Chicago Cubs’ organizations. A left-handed-hitting infielder, Shields made his Major League debut in 1992 with the Baltimore Orioles but earned his first MLB plate appearance with the Chicago Cubs in 1993.

***

The MLB PR Directors announced their annual Winter Meetings auction on Monday, with a litany of incredible, unique experiences up for bid with all of the proceeds going toward LUNGevity, the largest national lung cancer-focused nonprofit.

The charity, which was the personal cause of Orioles PR Director Monica Barlow, who passed away in February at age 36 after a lengthy battle with lung cancer, works to change outcomes for people with lung cancer through research, education, and support.

The Nationals have two great experiences up for auction this year: lunch with Matt Williams and his coaching staff inside the Nationals’ clubhouse one day this upcoming season, and a grounds crew experience. You can bid on these, and many other great items here. And all of the donations will go to a fantastic cause, and in Monica’s memory.

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