All rebuilds have a face attached to them. Usually one of a young, up and coming player - whether a high draft pick or fast-rising prospect - that signifies the hope of what’s to come. The light at the end of the tunnel. The success of the future.
I know Nationals manager Davey Martinez said he doesn’t like the term “rebuild,” but for our purposes, let’s just stick to calling it that, even if this new direction for the franchise is more of a retooling or reloading. Whatever “re-” you want to call it.
In baseball, see Anthony Rizzo all of those years ago with the Cubs. See Fernando Tatis Jr. a while back with the Padres. See Adley Rutschman now with the Orioles. Heck, even Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper over a decade ago for this very club.
Now as the page turns to a new chapter of Nationals baseball, we have to familiarize ourselves with new faces that will represent the team in a couple of years.
Yes, Juan Soto is the face of the big league club now and for however long he’s here.
And you can add Brady House, this year’s first-round pick, to that list.
House had quite the day Friday during his first official visit to Nationals Park as a member of the organization. He signed his first contract (reportedly a $5 million deal that is $452,500 over slot value for this year’s 11th overall pick). He donned a No. 1 Nationals jersey with his name on it and a red curly W cap while meeting general manager Mike Rizzo. He was greeted with cheers from the fans in the stadium as he was shown on the scoreboard screen. And he and his family watched an exciting 4-3 victory over the Cubs from the stands, the first game kicking off the next era for the Nationals he represents.
Seems like a lot of pressure for an 18-year-old fresh out of high school, no?
“I don’t think so,” House said in a Zoom session with reporters. “For me, I just have to go out there and play like I do every day. I don’t think anything changes. I don’t think my mindset changes or anything. Just getting out there and play like I always do is how I succeed best.”
That’s what Rizzo and Martinez are counting on, as they have dubbed these recent draft picks and newly added prospects as the core of Washington’s next championship team.
“It’s so exciting,” House said. “That’s the thing you want to hear is that you’re going to help a team win a title one day. I think that that’s a really good compliment for the guys that are with me, and me as well, just trying to get up there and help the team win.”
Where on the field House helps the team win is still to be determined.
Drafted as a shortstop, some scouts and even some personnel in the Nationals front office see him as a better fit at third base with his large 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame that he’s still growing into. But like he said on draft night, House remains committed to playing shortstop.
“I’m still gonna try my best to stay at shortstop,” he said. “I feel like if I can stay at shortstop, I can basically play anywhere else on the field.
“I’m still gonna be trying to stick at shortstop. I got drafted as a shortstop, so I’m gonna try my best to prove that I can stay at shortstop and still be the power and contact hitter that I am right now.”
House wasn’t able to stick around D.C. for too long, having already reported to the Nationals’ facility in West Palm Beach after last night’s game. But he just so happened to be in town for a day that signaled a turning point for the franchise. And though he didn’t get the chance to meet any of the current players or coaches face-to-face (due to the hectic day and COVID-19 protocols), he soaked in enough to formulate his own thoughts on the team’s new direction.
“I think it’s headed in a great direction,” said House. “Even though the trade deadline was yesterday, I still think we’re a strong team and we got people that can get the job done, and I’m looking forward to what happens the rest of the season.”
One of those people is longtime face of the franchise Ryan Zimmerman, a player House mentioned the night of the draft as someone he would like to compare himself to one day.
House brought up Mr. National again today as someone whose brain he would like to pick.
“I’m in a situation where this is all new to me,” House said. “So I’d just go up to him and ask how he deals with things. How he handles himself on and off the field and deals with all of the outside pressure and stuff. Not really anything baseball-related. Just the situation he’s in, how he deals with that.”
Zimmerman, who also met with the media today via Zoom to give his thoughts on the franchise’s new direction, was able to provide some advice for the fellow first-rounder, even though not in person.
“What would I tell him? I don’t know. I think just take advantage of your opportunities,” Zimmerman said. “Baseball and any pro sport is all about getting a chance and then taking advantage of that chance. So prepare and be ready when you get that chance to give yourself the best opportunity to succeed. And I think it starts as you’re drafted, as soon as you’re ready to go. Just work hard and keep your nose clean and go out there and have some fun. It’s hard to tell a young kid what to do. He’s in the position he’s in for a reason. He’s obviously already done a lot of that correctly and he’s very talented. I’ll enjoy watching how his career unfolds. He looks like a pretty talented player, so it’s exciting for the organization and I’m sure it’s really exciting for him and his family.”
Exciting indeed for the House family. And while the new National parts with the rest of them for the first time to get his professional career underway, that initial memory of being at Nats Park will be cherished between them forever.
“It was great, especially whenever they called my name up on the big screen,” House said. “Having the fans there, just to cheer around me, was a surreal moment. It was just awesome. I’ve never been to Nationals Park, so being there was a great atmosphere. I liked the energy and everything about it.”