Luke Voit embracing leadership role in Nationals’ young clubhouse

Voit embracing leadership role in Nationals’ young clubhouse originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON — An easy way for athletes to show they’re embracing the city they play in is to support the other professional teams nearby. Luke Voit didn’t have the chance to do that in San Diego, where the Padres are the only team in town. But when arrived in D.C. as part of the Juan Soto/Josh Bell trade, he already had a Wizards jersey ready.

Voit, 31, has pulled out his Bradley Beal threads for pregame drills on multiple occasions during his first month with the Nationals. Both Voit and Beal hail from the St. Louis-metro area and while they’ve never met, the Wizards’ star shooting guard shouted him out on Twitter when the Nationals posted a few photos of the sleeveless first baseman working on the infield.

“Just cool rocking some guys from the same hometown,” Voit said. “It was sitting in my closet, I was like, ‘Might as well rock it in here and rock D.C. a little bit.’”

Playing in Washington has been an adjustment for Voit, and not just because of the location. After spending most of the season chasing a playoff berth with the Padres, he’s now suiting up for a rebuilding club that is trotting out a slew of younger, inexperienced players with an eye on building for the future.

For the Nationals, Voit’s impact on the young players around him is just as important as his production on the field. He prides himself on bringing a blue-collar work ethic to the field every day and hopes to show his impressionable teammates that talent alone will only get them so far.

“I’ve been out every day pretty much doing early work trying to get better defensively obviously to make my career as best I can and show these guys that hard work and dedication can do wonders in this game,” Voit said.

“It’s just what got me here and I’m never gonna lose sight of that. I just bring that mentality every day because I signed up for $5,000. I wasn’t supposed to make the big leagues and I worked my butt off to get here and I don’t want to lose it.”

Nobody from the Nationals’ coaching staff or front office has outright asked Voit, who made the majors in 2017 as a 22nd-round pick, to step up as a leader. It’s something he decided to do on his own.

“He’s been a voice, he really has,” manager Davey Martinez said in his pregame press conference Thursday. “He’s trying to lead by example. He plays the game the right way. He plays hard. One thing I can tell you about him is he’s all in. Every at-bat, every play, he tries really hard to get us going.

“Sometimes — I talked to him yesterday about maybe trying a little bit less and when he does that he seems to hit the ball well. So I love him. He’s been that leader in that clubhouse, trying to teach the young guys, but he’s been a joy since he’s been here.”

With a home run in Wednesday’s win over the Oakland A’s, Voit is hitting .218 since joining the Nationals with five homers and a .709 OPS. He’s under contract for two more seasons after 2022 and will have the chance to earn significant playing time at first base moving forward with no other immediate options at the position in the organization.

In the meantime, he’s already added a level of grit — and some bare-chested flair — to the Nationals’ lineup at a time when the team is forging a new identity.

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