Washington Nationals players talk about the upcoming season and how the team is united by one goal: to win.
While the Nats are coming off a disappointing 55-107 record, there’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the club’s future. The team has some of the most lauded prospects in the game, including James Wood, Elijah Green, Robert Hassell III and Cade Cavalli, as well as top youngsters CJ Abrams, Keibert Ruiz and MacKenzie Gore. This group is expected to lead the team and anchor the next championship team in years to come. During spring training, some of the team’s players spoke with District Fray about their feelings on the upcoming season, the team’s future and what they enjoy about playing in Washington, D.C.
District Fray: It’s the time of year when everyone is on equal footing at 0-0. Why are you optimistic the Nationals can make some noise in 2023?
CJ Abrams (shortstop): We have a bunch of young players who love to play and have fun doing it. With all this young talent, we’re able to grow together.
Cade Cavalli (pitcher): I know we’ve all been preparing crazy hard to make this year as successful as possible. We all have an end goal in mind, which is to win. Each day is an opportunity — that’s preached to us. If we can just trust the process and keep putting in our best effort each day, then the results will be the way we prepared.
The Nats have some great younger players getting a chance in The Show. How will that youthful energy help on the field?
Abrams: Especially with the new rules this year [the elimination of shifting, a pitch clock to speed up the game and bigger bases, among others], we have a lot of chances to show our athleticism on the field, whether that’s ranging to get the balls on defense, helping pitchers get outs or swinging the bats.
Cavalli: We’re a crazy hungry team. We have veteran guys leading this team, and they’re helping us younger guys to prepare our best. Whenever we’re out on the field, we’re going to have that energy. We’re hungry. We want to win, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how that plays out.
What is manager Dave Martinez’s early message to the team this spring?
Josiah Gray (starting pitcher): His early message is just to go out there and learn every day. With us being predominantly young, there are going to be a lot of ebbs and flows in the season. It’s about learning every day — learning from your mistakes, learning from your really good moments and bottling those moments up and thinking how you can improve or stay even-keeled and consistent, because this game comes down to consistency. Martinez is awesome. I think he’s one of the best managers in the game at getting the most out of his guys. He’s always positive, always optimistic.
Any favorite restaurants or venues you like to go on off days or when you’re not on the field?
Gray: Unconventional Diner. It has a really good brunch. Really good dinner as well. I’ve been there probably three or four times now, and I always look forward to going there on an off day or when I have family in town, because it’s a spot I can introduce people to and they’ll always enjoy it.
Sean Doolittle (pitcher): We’re not big foodies — my wife’s a great cook, so we do a lot of cooking at home. She gets a lot of stuff from Eastern Market and whips it up when we get home, so breakfast spots are some of my favorite places to go. I really like Bethesda Bagels. I also like Call Your Mother, and Buffalo & Bergen has really good bagel sandwiches and good coffee. We like to take the dogs on long walks, take them hiking at Rock Creek Park. We hit up some of those free museums. The Portrait Gallery is one of our favorites. In the summer, we like to go on bike rides along the Anacostia River Trail.
What’s special about Nationals fans?
Doolittle: I feel so lucky to have a good relationship with Nats fans. They’ve taken such good care of me and my wife since we came here in 2017. They’ve really supported us on and off the field. Maybe after not having a big-league team in D.C. for a long time, they’re so excited baseball is back in the District. They’re very passionate fans. They’re very smart fans. Even last year, it was a tough year, and they still came out and supported us. I’m very appreciative of them, and they’re a big reason why we love playing here so much.
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