WASHINGTON, D.C.: Last October, new Washington Nationals’ manager Dave Martinez was on the field and in the visitor’s clubhouse in Nationals Park, celebrating the Cubs’ NLDS win, after their Game 5 victory, in his role as Chicago’s bench coach.
Today, Martinez, 53, was back in D.C., preparing to play a final exhibition game before the start of the 2018 campaign.
“I do have memories,” Martinez acknowledged, “and those memories will never go away, but I am excited to be wearing red, I heard from a lot of people saying I look good in red, so — yeah, but I feel very fortunate to be with this organization, which is incredible, and to work with some of the guys that I get to work with every day and build relationships with these guys. I’m really excited about the opportunity.”
Asked about the vibe he’s gotten from his new team, after the Nationals’ fourth NLDS loss in four trips to the postseason over the last six seasons, Martinez said that he believes in what the organization is trying to do, and how they’re trying to do it this year.
“For me,” he explained, “from what I’ve learned from them, and we talked about this often in Spring Training, I came up with one word that best describes our team, and it was ‘Habit,’ and what it means is ‘Heart, attitude, belief, integrity, trust.”
He sees all that in his new team, Martinez said, and happy as he is to be heading out again for the season opener in Cincinnati on Thursday, the first-time skipper said he was glad to be back in his new home, even if it’s only for a short stay.
“First and foremost I’m really thrilled to be back in Washington,” he said. “It feels nice to be back and unpack and get settled in, but moving forward, I’m very excited about Thursday, and so are the boys, we had a great camp, it was a lot of fun, they all got their work in, they’re all healthy, so we’re ready to go.”
Having made it through his first Spring Training as a manager (after spending ten years as Joe Maddon’s bench coach in Tampa Bay and Chicago), Martinez said nothing did surprise him this Spring, because he was well-prepared for the job.
“I was with arguably the best manager in the game,” he said. “I learned a lot from him, and what to expect, and he let me do a lot of different things, so coming into this, the biggest advice he ever gave me was to be myself and I did that coming into this.”
Looking forward to his first regular season game as a manager, Martinez did admit that it will be a big moment.
“It will be special. I’m going to say — I’m a guy where the jitterbugs get in me, but I like it, and I’m looking forward to it.”