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Washington Nationals: Minor League Challenges

After no baseball in 2020, this season has been a welcome change despite obstacles for the Nats and every farm  system …

Syndication: Wilmington MIKEY REEVES / For The News Journal

ABERDEEN, Md. – Some baseball is certainly better than no baseball at all.

That is the mantra for Wilmington pitching coach Justin Lord and other instructors in the farm system of the Washington Nationals.

Lord was a pitching coach in the Baltimore system in 2019, working at high Single-A Frederick of what was then the Carolina League. But so much has happened since then, with about 40 towns across North America losing their minor league teams.

Last year, Alabama native Lord was slated to be the pitching coach of high Single-A Fredericksburg of the Carolina League. But the season was called off due to the pandemic – delaying the debut in the Washington system by a year for Lord.

“There are challenges. Every season, whether there is COVID or no COVID, you are going to have challenges,” said Lord, standing outside of the Wilmington clubhouse about three hours before a recent game.

“We are just trying to get through them and face them as best as possible,” added Lord, who pitched in the minor leagues with Wilmington while in Kansas City’s system. “I have always believed if you are looking for an excuse you can find one. If you are looking for an opportunity, you can find one. It is all about your mindset and what you are focusing on.”

Fredericksburg lost its first 15 games this season. The Blue Rocks were 41-51 before playing on Thursday.

“We chose to put ourselves in a mental state, whether we like the situation or not,” Lord said. “Choose wisely and deal with where you are.”

This year, most of the leagues in the minors have off on Monday and play the same opponent for six games from Tuesday through Sunday. Lord is unsure if that will remain the same.

“There are pros and cons to it,” he said. “We will see what they decide. I think it is nice having Mondays off. Having an All-Star break would be nice.”

Lorenzo Bundy, the Double-A manager of Binghamton in the Mets’ system, said before the season began that a possible concern was teams could get edgy facing the same opponent six games in a row. There was fear that could lead to more possible beanball battles and such.

“We have seen that a little bit, but not as much as I expected,” Lord said.

Zach Brzykcy is in his first season of pro ball after he was signed as a non-drafted player out of Virginia Tech last year by the Nationals. He got the win Wednesday night for Wilmington as he went two scoreless innings at Aberdeen. He and his teammates have had to deal with pandemic protocols and the like - but at least there has been a season.

“It has been an up and down season,” said Brzykcy, 22, who is from North Carolina. “But I’m pretty happy with how things have gone.”