WASHINGTON – The plan was for Matt LeCroy was to go around and visit the different minor league affiliates of the Washington Nationals this year in his new role as a quality control coordinator.
Of course, those plans were put on hold when the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season.
“It is just another set of eyes for our staff and player development,” LeCroy, who would have been in uniform at games in the minors, told Federal Baseball on Sunday from Florida.
“We want to make sure we are on the same page with our program and make sure we are on the same page with the big-league staff.”
So after several months at home in South Carolina, the former Nationals’ catcher and bullpen coach put on his uniform again in October as part of the staff at Instructional League in West Palm Beach.
“When something is taken away from you, you kind of take some things for granted,” he said.
“It was really good to be back to be back out there and put on the uniform and hit fungoes and teach and coach,” added LeCroy, 44, who part of Spring Training before Major League Baseball had its shutdown.
“It was really good for (being in) this position” to see younger players at Instructional League.
LeCroy was a catcher in the majors from 2000 to 2007 and played for Frank Robinson and the Nationals in 2006, hitting .239 in 39 games.
He was a member of the last Minnesota team to win a postseason game - on October 5, 2004.
LeCroy hit a career-best 17 homers in 2003 and 2005 for the Twins.
A former standout at Clemson, LeCroy has been with the Nationals for several years. He is a former bullpen coach for the Major League team, then in 2019 was the manager for Double-A Harrisburg of the Eastern League.
The video of LeCroy telling pitcher Aaron Barrett he was heading back to the majors with the Nationals went viral during the 2019 season. Others to play for LeCroy at Harrisburg last year were outfielders Michael A. Taylor and Andrew Stevenson, infielder Luis García, and pitchers Ben Braymer, Wil Crowe, James Bourque, Sterling Sharp, Erick Fedde, and Austin Voth.
The moment Aaron Barrett found out he was going back to the bigs. Congratulations, Aaron!— Harrisburg Senators (@HbgSenators) September 3, 2019
cc: @Nationals @masnNationals @MLB @MiLB @aaronbarrett30 pic.twitter.com/RSxQ1b9dMT
García, Braymer, Crowe, Bourque, and Sharp all made the Major League debut in 2020.
Sharp did so with the Marlins and he is back in the Nationals’ system after going to Miami as a Rule 5 pick.
“Being at Double-A (in 2019), I didn’t know any of the young kids. This Instructional League has been good for my position so I get to see these kids that people are talking [about],” LeCroy said.
The Nationals’ prospects faced the Marlins on Sunday in an Instructional League game.
After a workday on Monday, the Nats were slated to have an intrasquad game Tuesday before breaking camp.
That means LeCroy will head back home to his native state – and this summer he spent time with his wife and five children in Belton, South Carolina.
“It was strange. I have been gone, heck, for 19 or 20 years (during the summer). This was the first time I got to see my kids play and be part of their teams,” he said.
One of his daughters is a freshman in high school and plays basketball and tennis. Two of his sons play travel baseball and when their season was put on hold they used the batting cage LeCroy has at their house.
“I think they were really excited when he had” instructs, he said. “There was a sense of normalcy.”
He was able to watch video from the alternate site camp in Virginia.
“We have a feed from Fredericksburg,” he said. “We all had different players to talk to and make sure we stayed connected (via Zoom and the phone) with everyone. There was a lot of uncertainty about when we would start-up” with summer camp and the Major League season.
Much is up in the air for the minor leagues in 2021 as an industry. Reports last year from Baseball America and the New York Times had the town of Auburn, NY losing its team with the rest of the New York-Penn League as the development agreement between Major League Baseball and the minors ran out in late September.
Auburn has been an affiliate of the Nationals since 2011.
“There is a lot of uncertainty,” LeCroy said. “It’s part of the job. This is a tough situation. You hope to be back and be part of this organization. We have been doing this for a long time. We have a great owner and general manager. We just have a lot of great people here and they have treated us very well. If something bad happens we will deal with it.”