I’m all set up here at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center for NatsFest 2014, and this place is already hopping.
Fans have swarmed this enormous building and there’s red everywhere. The fact that it’s January and the temperatures are in the 20s doesn’t seem to be dampening enthusiasm about the Nationals or baseball at all.
Players will be rolling through the media room all day, and I’ll have tons of quotes to pass along from our sessions with these guys. First on the docket is Tyler Moore, who just chatted with reporters a couple of minutes ago.
Moore belted 10 home runs during a strong rookie season in 2012, but had a down year last year, one that saw him twice get demoted to Triple-A Syracuse. He finished the season clicking more at the plate, but entered this offseason mentally trying to build off his struggles in 2013.
“It was tough, but at the same time, it was kinda a wakeup call, like, you can’t just roll in here and think you’re gonna do good all the time,” Moore said. “This is a tough and humbling game and it’s just an eye-opener and it makes you a little more hungry. Because a lot of people are talking bad and you just want to prove them wrong, and at the same time, you want to prove to yourself that you belong here and that you want to stay. ...
“I think last year I was maybe a little too lackadaisical in spring and that’s what I want to kind of correct this year because I know that I don’t have an everyday job, obviously, and I have to kind of come in and be ready to hit when I have that chance.”
It can be tough for young players who are used to playing every day at the minor league level to come up and work in a bench role in the majors. The inconsistent playing time and at-bats can make it tough on any hitter, much less one with little big league experience, to stay in a groove.
But now that Moore has two years of experience in that role under his belt, he feels he’s better off when it comes to adapting to the limited playing time that comes with a bench role.
“Physically, I definitely know how. Mentally, I think it’s still a challenge,” Moore said. “It’s still a challenge even for the veteran guys, and it’s something you have to figure out every day your own personal way to do things. The biggest thing for me is just to slow the game down, stay locked in the game on the bench, stay locked in the game and not lose myself with other teammates or stuff I don’t need to be focused on. It’s an effort there that you have to put in.”
The question for Moore is whether he’ll be in a bench role with the Nats when camp breaks, or whether he’ll be back in the minors, playing every day but doing so on a much smaller scale. The Nats have made some additions this offseason to add depth to the bench and create competition, but Moore is the only clear first base option off the bench at this point.
That said, Moore is taking nothing for granted.
“I’m not given anything,” Moore said. “I’m definitely gonna have to earn what I’m gonna get. I’m just looking forward to it, looking forward to competing. I know we brought in some great guys, and we’ll see what happens. But I’m just ready to go. Excited about it.”