WASHINGTON – Who knows if and when there will be Spring Training this year.
And when it does happen, what are the chances of utility man Jake Noll – whose birthday is today, as he turns 28.
Drafted by the Nationals in 2016, the right-handed hitter hit .167 in 12 at-bats for Washington in 2019 and then batted .353 in 17 trips to the plate in 2020 for the Nationals.
Noll didn’t see action last year for the Nationals as he was one of the top hitters at the Triple-A level with Rochester in upstate New York.
Noll, a Florida native, was drafted in the seventh round in 2016 by the Nationals out of Florida Gulf Coast.
He was rarely rated as a top prospect on his way up the ladder, but he made the Opening Day roster of the Nationals in 2019 when injuries hit the team among position players.
“Best feeling of my life,” Noll, standing in front of his locker at Nationals Park early in the 2019 season, told this reporter in a story for a Florida paper.
“I texted my mom about it and she was thrilled. It is crazy.”
Noll hit .167 in 12 at-bats for Washington in 2019 while spending most of the season at Triple-A Fresno, where he hit .285 with 11 homers and 54 RBIs.
He hit .353 in 17 at-bats for the Nationals in 2020 as the pandemic wiped out the minor league season. Noll was part of the alternate site roster in Fredericksburg that year.
Last year at Triple-A Rochester, he hit .300 with an OPS of .840, 17 homers, and 69 RBIs in 437 at-bats.
Noll was also named a postseason all-star at the Triple-A level in 2021. He has the versatility to play infield and outfield and can also be used as an emergency catcher.
“I just have to stay prepared and be ready when the name is called,” Noll said in 2019.
“I work hard on it every day. I take fly balls in the outfield. It is not easy to be able to do that. I just have to stay prepared and be ready when my name is called.”
March 8 is a key date for some other baseball news in the Washington region.
Bryce Harper was dealing with a tight calf muscle in Spring Training 10 years ago today with the Nationals.
Toby Atwell was born in Leesburg, Virginia on March 8, 1924, and he went to Leesburg High.
The catcher made his debut in 1952 with the Cubs and he was an All-Star for the only time that year.
His last game was with the Milwaukee Braves on Sept. 28, 1956.
He was retired as a pinch-hitter in his only at-bat in that game against the Cardinals.
A starting outfielder that day for the Braves was Hank Aaron.
Atwell died in Purcellville, Virginia in 2003, according to baseballreference.com.