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From prodigy to mentor: Trea Turner emerges as a leader for the Washington Nationals

Once the future of the franchise, he’s now a veteran who helps his rookie teammates.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Baltimore Orioles
Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner has developwed into a leader on this year’s team and a mentor for the rookies on either side of him, third baseman Carter Kieboom and second baseman Luis Garcia.
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Leading off Sunday’s 6-5 Nationals’ victory over the Baltimore Orioles, Trea Turner started a demoralizing day for Baltimore starter John Means with an 11-pitch walk, then staked the Nats to a first-inning lead when he scored on Asdrúbal Cabrera’s single.

His patience in getting on base and his smart baserunning demonstrate how Turner has matured. In six seasons, he has gone from a free-swinging speedster with a strong defensive game to a prototypical leadoff hitter, batting .292/.350/.500 with 21 hits and seven walks, and the leader of the infield.

Manager Davey Martinez couldn’t stop raving about Turner’s leadership in Saturday’s postgame media session.

“It’s a tribute to where he is right now in his career,” Martinez said. “He truly feels like a veteran.”

The former prodigy who caused a buzz when the Nationals traded for him in the minor leagues denies feeling old.

“I’m still in the middle,” Turner said Saturday. “We’ve got a pretty veteran team for the most part. But then we have the guys who aren’t veterans are very, very young. So I’m one of the few in the middle.”

But there’s no denying that Turner has become a mentor for the rookies playing on either side of him, third baseman Carter Kieboom and second baseman Luis Garcia.

“He always has these conversations with everybody, even in the field,” said Martinez. “I remember him talking to Carter Kieboom, because he plays next to him, about where he plays for the shift, where he thinks Carter should play and he’s constantly helping him out out there, which is really nice.

“I don’t think it matters who plays second base with him, he just understands that he’s got to have these conversations,” Martinez continued. “So he talks to Garcia and he asks Garcia, ‘Where do you want me to throw the ball? Where do you feel most comfortable on double plays?’ and constantly communicating with one another, and I think it’s great.”

Turner acknowledges his influence on his younger teammates but points out that they keep him feeling young, too.

“Some days I feel old and some days I try to go with the young guys and be a little more energetic. So I think it’s a good thing, I think you can feed off both sides of experience as well as the energy of a young guy, so I’ll play both sides,” Turner said.

Turner also likes the mix of veterans and younger players on this Nationals team.

“Sometimes it takes a lot of experience. But these guys like I said, and a young age they’ve learned a lot and they can play at this level. We’re going to expect that out of them.”