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10/04/07 11:30 PM ET
Former D-backs throw out first pitch
Williams, Bell part of 2001 championship squad
By Michael Schwartz / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Jay Bell and Matt Williams will be forever linked in D-backs lore by the indelible image of Bell excitedly trotting home, his arms extended upward in celebration, before embracing Williams after scoring the winning run in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.
At the time, it served as the perfect image to cap off a World Series victory, with the two veterans who had been original Diamondbacks sharing a moment when the franchise reached the top of the league four years into its existence.
Six years later, the former players returned to Chase Field to throw out the first pitch before the new version of the D-backs played Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Cubs.
"It's one of those things where it did make it special because both of us respected each other through the course of our playing career against one another, and to have the opportunity to play five of our last years together, it's special," Bell said.
Added Williams, "We came a long way."
The duo gave Arizona a veteran presence from its inception in 1998 before their career years in 1999 propelled the D-backs to 100 wins and their first playoff berth. Williams challenged for the MVP Award by hitting .303 with 35 homers and 142 RBIs in '99, while Bell checked in with a .289 average to go with 38 homers and 112 RBIs.
Both players have remained close to the organization after their playing days ended, and threw out a first pitch together back in 2004.
After serving as manager Bob Melvin's bench coach last season, Bell chose to spend more time with his family this year, but remained an adviser to Melvin while coaching his children's baseball and football teams.
Williams works as a special assistant to the general partner. He took over the organization's Double-A managing job for about a month when Brett Butler suffered a stroke on July 27.
"It was fun," Williams said. "It was fun to get back into uniform. You can't play forever, so if you get a chance to get back in uniform, it's fun."
The former third baseman hopes to manage in the Majors one day, which he is currently doing in the Arizona Fall League for the Scottsdale Scorpions until D-backs third-base coach Chip Hale takes over when Arizona's season ends.
After throwing 20 minutes of batting practice to his Fall League players earlier in the day, there's no place Williams would rather spend his Thursday evening than Chase Field.
"It's where every baseball player wants to be," he said. "It's why you train all winter and go to Spring Training, for this opportunity. It's fun."