Third baseman Drew Ward gained valuable experience by playing in the Arizona Fall League at the end of last season. This experience has helped propel him to a strong start for the high Single-A Potomac Nationals.
“It was a great experience,” said Ward. “I was on the taxi guy, so I played once or twice a week, but I learned so much just getting around older guys and trying to learn how to become a professional baseball player.”
Ward, 21, said working with other teams was helpful, but it also gave him a chance to learn from one of his teammates from Carolina League play last year who also was playing in the Fall League.
“Really the biggest guy that was on my team was (catcher) Spencer Kieboom,” Ward said. “He was here last year. This is actually my first year not being with him since I got drafted. He’s taught me so much. He’s kind of helped me become a professional baseball player and kind of helped me with life. I learned a lot out there.”
Kieboom is now catching for Double-A Harrisburg in the Nationals system.
This year Ward is gravitating towards fellow Oklahoman and P-Nats right-handed reliever Koda Glover, who was born in Monroe, Okla. Ward grew up in Leedey, Okla.
Glover pitched at Oklahoma State, about 2 1/2 hours from where Ward grew up.
“It’s great,” Ward said. “He’s also Native American like I am. So that’s pretty cool having a Native American guy out on the field with me. I played against him or with him in high school (invitational games). It’s good to have him here, and we talk about similar things going on in Oklahoma.”
The 6-foot-3, 215 lbs., Ward is 7-for-17 (.438) to begin this campaign with at least two hits in three of his first four games. He has hit two homers and has two RBIs. His OPS is 1.401. He is also looking to cut down on his strikeouts: currently five in the first four games, but he also has drawn two walks.
“I am more relaxed coming for my second time and I feel like I know what I need to do and what I expect from the league and how they pitched me last year,” Ward said during media day before their first game last week. “I feel like they will probably pitch me the same way because I am sure they have the same managers and pitching coaches. I have an idea what I need to do and it will be a good year.”
Ward worked very hard at spring training with Nationals infield instructor Jeff Garber on his defense at third base: concentrating on his footwork, his hands, his readiness for each play and his throws to each base.
“It’s a huge focus for me,” Ward said. “It’s that part of my game that I need to get better. I feel like my first step is getting a lot better and my pre-pitch is getting a lot better and it’s all coming together.”