Wilmer Difo smacks a home run. Trea Turner gets a double and a stolen base. Bryce Harper crushes another homer. The Nationals are growing as a team with their young players making plays and delivering in clutch situations.
It’s no secret that these young players watch how the veterans act on and off the field and try to mimic their actions so that they can be consistent major league ballplayers themselves.
Brian Goodwin said it the first day he returned to the club early this season. He said the biggest takeaway he gleaned from his introduction to Major League Baseball last season was learning from the veterans.
On May 10, Jayson Werth worked an 11-pitch at-bat into a critical solo homer in the bottom of the ninth to start a rally against the Orioles. Down 6-4 in the ninth, the Nats came back to win 7-6.
“He picked up the whole team with that at-bat he had the other day,” said manager Dusty Baker.
Baker said young players follow Werth’s lead. Werth is batting .316 in the season’s first 32 games. He has an on-base percentage of .414, with four doubles, six homers, 22 runs, 18 walks and 12 RBIs.
“Well, they depend on Jayson’s expertise,” Baker said. “I know a lot of times Bryce has said, ‘Hey, man, we need to get JW in here to see what he thinks.’ Because he’s been through almost everything there is to go through. It’s especially good when one of your top leaders in the clubhouse is playing well on the field.”
Baker notes it is not just Werth’s baseball activities that young players repeat. They also follow his nutrition and workout regimen.
“He can inspire you. Some guys call him grandpa and different things, but that’s out of respect, out of love,” Baker said. “The fact that how he treats his body. How he eats right and trains right. That gives them some thoughts on how to take care of their bodies and minds in the present in order to play that long if they aspire to.”
Baker had a long and illustrious playing career with some of the best in the game. He said Werth reminds him of one of the best all-time home run hitters.
“Similar to when I played with Hank Aaron,” Baker remembered. “Hank would tell us things, go out and show you. And then you sort of emulate that person. Sometimes there are good leaders and bad leaders as well.
“They show you wrong way to go, but (JW) shows these guys how to go and do the correct way.”
Winning teams are a blend of the youth and veteran players playing up to their potential. But players like the 37-year-old Werth are the ones that anchor such a high-flying ship.