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In lost season, early success of Joey Meneses a feel-good story with Washington Nationals

The Nationals are not very good, but watching a career minor leaguer finally get a chance and take advantage is pretty cool...

MLB: AUG 03 Mets at Nationals Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It took Joey Meneses 4,103 days from the day he signed with Atlanta Braves as a minor league free agent in 2011 to his major league debut with the Washington Nationals this season.

That’s 4,103 days of grinding through every level of the minor leagues, sometimes for years per level that must have felt like decades. He put in the work to survive, and survive, and now with his fourth organization, finally try to make the breakthrough millions dream of one day making.

“I’m a person, I’m a human, and sometimes this has been really tough,” Meneses told Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post while in Triple-A earlier this year. “I mean, I am far from my family and trying to make my dream come true.

“Sometimes I will think: ‘What am I doing here? I’m losing time.’ Or like, ‘Why did I choose this?’ But in a day or two, I’ll come back and keep working to get there.”

After the Nationals dealt away Juan Soto and Josh Bell, the opportunity Meneses had been working so hard for during those 4,103 days, and many before that, had finally come.

Watching Meneses play in the majors with the joy of someone who has struggled down the bumpy road that many are forced off of due to the abysmal minor league pay and the sub-standard facilities, and reached a beautiful place can momentarily help Nationals fans put a miserable season to the back of their minds, even for just a few seconds.

“Joey is a great example of stick-to-it-iveness,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN’s The Sports Junkies on Wednesday.

“What it takes to grind your way through the minor leagues to get to the big leagues and reach your dream.”

“Those are success stories, they’re happy stories, they’re upbeat stories, because this guy has obviously earned every at-bat he’s gotten in the big leagues, and the most important part, he’s taken advantage of it.”

In the grand scheme of the immediate future for the organization and its fans, the results of the remaining 49 games this season mean very little.

Don’t tell Meneses though. Even though he’s made the arduous climb to make it to the majors, he’s been playing like a man with a fire in his belly to try and stay at this level.

“I feel like, up here, you have a little bit more energy and more motivation obviously,” Meneses told reporters, as quoted by Andrew Golden of The Washington Post.

“But I feel that I’ve been doing it [in the minors] all year long, and hopefully I continue to do it.”

In his first seven games as a major leaguer, Meneses is 8-for-23, four of the hits have been singles, and four of them have left the ballpark, tied for the most in the majors in that short span of time.

We don’t know how the rest of Meneses’s major league career will go, but it’s cool for the team and its fans to see him having his moment in the spotlight with the Nationals so far.

“After 10 years of grinding it out on commercial flights in Triple-A,” Rizzo said, “and long bus rides in A-ball and Double-A, when you walk into the [team hotel] in Philadelphia, it’s probably something that says, ‘Wow, I’ve made it to the big leagues.’”

“He’s taken it in stride pretty well, and it’s fun to see those kinds of stories because he’s the epitome of a grinder and what it takes to follow your dreams and stay with it.”

Three of Meneses’s home runs came in the Nationals’ series at Wrigley Field earlier this week, and one of them, a two-run shot into the home run basket in left field, was the game-winner against the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday.

Manager Dave Martinez has not shied away from how tough this season has been for his team, but watching Meneses succeed has given the skipper something to smile about.

“It’s awesome,” Martinez said following the series in Chicago. “He’s working some really good at-bats, he really is.

“We saw what he did in the minor leagues, driving the ball, but you know he’s got a great approach up there. With two strikes you see him trying to stay on the ball and hit the ball the other way. When he gets ahead in the count he really can juice the baseball. He’s having a lot of fun out there, he enjoys it.

“It’s funny, we talked before the game, and I [asked], ‘How do you like really feel?’ And he said, ‘Oh, man this is really an awesome place, you know.’ And I said, ‘I’ll tell you something, any stadium in the major leagues is awesome just as long as you have that uniform on.’ He goes, ‘You are absolutely right.’

“But it’s good to see it. He waited a long time, and he’s getting an opportunity and he’s making the best of it.”