Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Matt Williams Is No Longer Sleeping Giant

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Matt Williams Is No Longer Sleeping Giant

Article excerpt

San Francisco Giants third baseman Matt Williams says he uses all of spring to get ready.

This is commonly known as a ballplayer's expression of gratitude that the regular season doesn't start until April.

But Williams can't wait for the season to begin this year - for a number of reasons. Let's start with the $30 million, six-year deal the club rewarded him with over the winter.

The Giants knew Williams was worth it because of what he gives them, proficiency in the cleanup position and in the field. He's an All-Star without an ego, a guy who prefers to take his cuts without taking any bows.

That characteristic, an incurable case of humility, especially in this era, has led to an impression that Williams would prefer not be in the kitchen when the oven knob is turned to 400 degrees or in the batter's box when a game is on the line.

Many have said it: Williams hates to haul around the team on his shoulders.

Well, Williams hasn't said it. Truth tell, he says the opposite.

"I want to be the guy up there with the bases loaded in the ninth inning," Williams insisted. "That's what you play for, a chance to succeed. I look forward to those opportunities. Oh, everybody's got to do their share. One or two men can't carry a team. But in a tough situation, I'd be the first in line."

Where he bats is fourth in the order, and last year that meant being as well located as a plush resort home. Ahead of him was Will Clark. Behind him was Barry Bonds. No pressure but plenty of punch.

Now Clark has gone to the Texas Rangers, and Willie McGee, at least for a while, has gone to the No. 3 spot in the Giants lineup. Williams won't be overlooked any longer, if he ever was.

"I haven't even thought about it," said Williams. "Whoever bats in front of me, you deal with the situation. Once you play long enough you stop worrying about possibilities and take what comes.

"Besides, Willie's going to be great. He gets on, and he's a base stealing threat." And Williams probably will get more fastballs.

Williams, 28, is a study in persistence. He arrived in the major leagues before he was ready, in 1987, his second year of pro baseball. And for a long while he was jerked hither like some horse in a training ring. …

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