Trea Turner talked last month, before the start of his sixth season in D.C. about finding his voice as part of the leadership in the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse and dugout, after he’d been an on-field leader as the shortstop in the nation’s capital for five seasons.
“We still have a lot of veteran leadership and veteran guys that have played this game for a long time,” Turner said, name-checking players like Asdrúbal Cabrera, Starlin Castro, Kurt Suzuki, and Yan Gomes. He is the second-longest-tenured position player on the club now, behind only Michael A. Taylor, and he is starting to assert himself as a vocal leader on and off the field.
The 27-year-old said he tends to lead by example.
“Kind of do my job, speak when I need to, keep my mouth shut when I need to and just work hard and try to compete and help those guys around me,” Turner explained, “... and I think we’re doing a good job of just getting better and dealing with what we’re dealing with and try to just prepare for the season and bring the young guys, keep the old guys healthy, and hopefully I’m somewhere in the middle of those.”
His manager has noticed the growth of the shortstop.
“He’s quietly become a team leader, but he leads by example,” Davey Martinez said before this past Wednesday night’s game with the New York Mets.
“He wants to do the right things. When he speaks, he speaks about the right things.
“But I’ve seen him mature a lot since I’ve been here. Definitely. But he just wants to come out and play the game, and try to lead his team.”
“As you know, he’s our leadoff hitter,” Martinez added. “He’s the guy that tends make things go, and he lives up to that, and I love him. The guy goes out there and he plays both sides of the game really well and he’s the guy that gets us going.”
Turner’s willingness to share the wisdom he’s accumulated early in his career has impressed his manager as well.
“The biggest thing I’ve seen out of Trea is that he’s constantly becoming a teacher. He’s constantly telling guys. He’s has conversations with Starlin [Castro].
“Starlin has played for a long time. He’s helping [Carter] Kieboom over there in positioning and playing and just kind of communicating on how to play the game.
“These are things that I’ve noticed him doing throughout — especially Spring Training this year, and it’s showing me that he’s really partaking in what we believe that he’s going to be, one the future of this franchise, and two, the leader of this team. I mean, like I said, he likes to go out there, he doesn’t really say a whole lot, he likes to go out there and play and lead by example.
“When he does speak, guys tend to listen. I mean, he’s a student of the game, he loves the game, he’s starting to understand a lot about the game and how to play the game in a different aspect, because he is in the middle of the field, and he sees things a lot differently than a lot of guys do, and he talks about it.”
In D.C., there’s no bigger compliment than the one Martinez offered next, comparing Turner to the original face of the Nationals’ franchise, who also tended to lead by example.
Martinez said he hasn’t had to tell Turner it’s time for him to lead, he’s just done it.
“It’s something that I mentioned, but not in a way to where, ‘Hey, you’re going to become a leader,” he explained.
“I just tell him, ‘Hey, you keep doing the things you’re doing.’ That to me shows leadership.
“A lot of leaders don’t speak up. We had an unbelievable leader here and a captain who chose to opt out this year and I watched him, and how he [led], and he [led] by example, and that’s [Ryan Zimmerman].
“Zim didn’t say a whole lot of stuff, but when he did speak, people listened to him, but he went out there and showed people how to play the game the right way.”