ATLANTA - When Joey Meneses signed with the Atlanta Braves, he was three days from his 19th birthday. It was May 2011, and Truist Park was six years from being built.
Eleven years later, a 30-year-old Meneses played his first game in Atlanta, wearing the uniform of the Braves’ division rivals. He went 4-for-4 with four singles, raising his batting average to .325 through his first 41 career big league games.
“The whole time I was playing in the minors to get to this point, to get this opportunity,” Meneses said through interpreter Octavio Martinez after Monday’s game. “I just want to do as well as possible up here and, hopefully, remain here as long as possible.”
Meneses’ Baseball-Reference page can’t be read without scrolling several times. His career includes stops in Mexico, Japan and four major league organizations, spanning 12 years.
There were plenty of good seasons in there. His final season in the Braves organization came in 2017, when he hit .292 with a .763 OPS for Double-A Mississippi at age 25. After signing with the Phillies that winter, Meneses hit .311 with 23 home runs and an .870 OPS for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
He never got the call. But he kept playing.
“He’s done some really good things in the minor leagues,” manager Davey Martinez said before Tuesday’s game. “He went overseas and played for a while. He comes back here, he endures another season in the minors and gets an opportunity to come in here and fill a need, and he’s running with it.”
Sharing a clubhouse with 21-year-old rookie CJ Abrams, Meneses is hardly a prototypical rookie, having racked up 1,417 career games.
But his years in the game give him an opportunity to mentor a young Nationals roster.
“I can’t say enough about what he’s been doing and the kind of character he brings to a ballclub,” said Martinez. “All around, he’s been such a blessing for our club. They call him a rookie, but he’s a veteran at heart. He’s acting that way with some of our young guys.”
As the Nationals prepare for an offseason roster churn, Meneses has established himself as an inexpensive yet valuable player who can be used in a corner outfield or first base.
“I want to see him continue to do it to the end of the year,” Martinez said with 15 regular-season games remaining. “But he’s hit all year long. To me, that’s a testament (to the fact) that he’s learned a lot. He knows a lot about himself and how to approach his at-bats. I want him to continue what he’s doing.
“He’s in every at-bat, every pitch. It’s been good. I’m happy for him. Some guys don’t stick around for that long and make it. He’s one that did, and he’s doing everything he can to stay.”