Imagine waiting 12 years to reach your goal. You grind year in and year out, and still come up short for 12 years.
But when you finally reach it, it’s well worth the wait.
That was Joey Meneses’ grind through 12 years of baseball in the minor leagues and abroad. The 30-year-old finally reached his dream of playing in the major leagues last August when he was brought up from Triple-A Rochester as one of the replacements for Juan Soto and Josh Bell after the two were traded at the deadline.
On Thursday, he reached another long-awaited milestone of his major league career: Opening Day.
“Very, very exciting,” Meneses said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez, after the Nationals’ 7-2 loss in the first game of the season. “It's one of those moments you want to live as a ballplayer, and thank God I was able to live it.”
Ironically, his first Opening Day came against the Braves, the team that originally signed him as an international free agent out of Mexico back in May 2011. He spent seven seasons in Atlanta’s minor league system, topping out at Double-A Mississippi in 2017.
The baseball gods are funny that way.
Meneses had some success against his original team despite the loss. He finished 2-for-5 with an RBI to drive in the home team’s second run of the game.
“On a personal note, it was good for me. But obviously, we wanted to win,” he said. “Hopefully, we'll have plenty of opportunities to get wins under our belt.”
“It was awesome,” manager Davey Martinez said of his designated hitter’s early success. “I've said this before: He's a good hitter. He understands who he is at the plate and he stays in the middle of the field. He's a really good hitter.”
The big moment didn’t rattle Meneses like it did some of his younger teammates. Although some of them might have some more big league experience, Meneses quickly got used to playing on a big stage, particularly for Team Mexico in this month’s World Baseball Classic.
It’s a natural confidence he has.
“I sensed confidence the day we brought him up last year,” general manager Mike Rizzo said. “He hit the ground running and he hasn't stopped yet. Hopefully, it continues. The league will make adjustments against him. Hopefully, he makes the adjustments back and continues the streak that he’s on.”
That streak he was riding from the end of last season included hitting .324 with 14 doubles, 13 home runs, 35 RBIs, 15 walks and 33 runs in 56 major league games. He led the Nationals in hits, homers and RBIs from the day he was called up through the end of the season. That carried into yesterday.
But all of that wasn’t as exciting as stepping onto the field at Nationals Park while hearing his name called over the stadium speakers and the roar of the crowd for his first major league Opening Day.
“The moment when I ran through the red carpet,” Meneses said when asked which moment will be most memorable for him.
“I think it's just something everyone wants to live through,” he said. “It's like a dream come true, just run through the red carpet. Probably because of that.”
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