Only one coach was kept from the previous regime: third base coach Bobby Henley, who has been with the organization for more than 20 years, dating to its time in Montreal.
It is an important point. Henley is obviously very good at his job, but he also can be a sounding board for the players to help in the transition to the new coaching regime.
Henley was thrilled to stay with the Nationals when we caught up with him at Winterfest.
“It means a lot. I been here so long,” Henley said. “I been here since I was a kid. I’m still growing up, I think. I never really matured into an adult to a full extent, whatever that might be. I think there’s a sense with this organization - it’s family. It’s family-owned. And I’ve been here so long that it feels like family.
“I think whenever there’s a decision made to keep you, it feels good and that feeling feels good. At the same time, it’s tough with that because others weren’t retained and you have close relationships with them. But I’m excited.”
Henley had a chance to visit with the new coaching staff and new manager Dave Martinez, and provided some insight on how that meeting went.
“We had an opportunity to go to Florida a few weeks ago and get a chance to talk and meet each other,” Henley said. “Talk some baseball and have some dinner. It was great. Dave gave us his vision and his direction and how he would like to go about things, and it was crystal clear. He is a great communicator. He wants to have a fire and a passion in our belly when we play. I love the fact that he wants to be extremely aggressive on the bases, with going first to third and what not. I was pumped up about that.”
During the meeting, Henley said Martinez spoke about the unusual spring training schedule.
“We had a chance to talk about the schedule, which is very interesting,” Henley said. “We talked about report dates and the first game. You got position players reporting and about two days later we are playing a game. So after the physicals, you got a couple of days and we are playing a ball game. A little different than in the past, when you had a few more days on the field. He’s aware of it, might start them off slow and let the younger kids get a chance to play.”
Henley was also told he will take on another responsibility: outfield coach. When he was offered the additional position, he was pumped up.
“I’m fired up about that,” he said. “(Dave) had asked me and I go: ‘Really? OK! All right!”
Henley already has a solid relationship with Bryce Harper, Michael A. Taylor and Adam Eaton. He remembers working with Harper as a teenager when he first arrived to minors. He coached Taylor when he was in the minors and rehabbing an injury.
“They know how to play,” Henley said. “With them, I’ve already had a chance to talk to them and discuss with them. Going through the spring, let’s make sure that we do things that are pertinent to getting you ready for the season, to play and win a championship. It’s not about standing out there for 30 minutes whenever 15 (minutes) will do what we need it to do. We have a chance for guys to win Gold Gloves in all those positions. So I think a little bit with me, I’m going to make sure I stay out of their way to a certain extent.”