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Washington Nationals Minors: No place like home for Lawson

Infielder for Fredericksburg grew up in Loudoun County and was drafted earlier this year out of the University of Tennessee by the Nationals; he is one of several local players with the Virginia team …

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Photo - Cortland Lawson - Fredericksburg Nationals; Copyright/Courtesy - Edward Maurer/Fredericksburg Nationals

FREDERICKSBURG, VA – Infielder Cortland Lawson, 22, didn’t get any advance notice before he was drafted by the Washington Nationals earlier this summer out of the University of Tennessee.

“I was in Knoxville, Tennessee in college and I honestly didn’t hear from anyone,” he told Federal Baseball, standing outside of the clubhouse here in Fredericksburg after Sunday’s game with Down East. “I saw it on the board and my phone started ringing.”

Getting picked in the 14th Round by the Nationals was a dream come true for Lawson, who grew up in Loudoun County, Virginia and played at Paul VI in Fairfax before he transferred to Dominion High in Sterling for his senior season.

“It means a lot growing up going to Nats games my whole life, playoff games, regular-season games, all that,” said Lawson, who was born in 2000. “Now being in the system I have a bunch of friends and family that get to come down and see me; it is really cool to see.”

He was assigned to a low Single-A team in Fredericksburg which has several big-name prospects.

“We have a really good team and a lot of good prospects with guys who will play for a long time,” Lawson said.

One of those prospects is outfielder James Wood, who came to the Nationals in the trade with San Diego for Juan Soto and Josh Bell.

Wood is hitting .317 overall this year with 12 homers in the minors. He turns 20 next month.

“He is a five-tool player who can do it all. He was a big pickup,” Lawson said. “He is a good player who will only continue to get better since he is really young.”

A top pitching prospect with Fredericksburg is right-hander Jackson Rutledge, a first-round pick in 2019 by the Nationals.

“He goes out there and takes it from people,” Lawson said. “He comes at you and doesn’t hold anything back. It is really fun to play behind guys that play like that.”

Lawson was assigned to Fredericksburg on August 9 and he is hitting .115 in his first 26 at-bats with a homer.

He said playing in the powerhouse Washington Catholic Athletic Conference with Paul VI was a big part of his development. Wood played in the WCAC with St. John’s of D.C.

“My older brother, Breadon, started off at Paul VI. Seeing that level of baseball, it kind of motivated me to play at that level,” Lawson said.

“I knowing playing at that level in high school prepared me for college and ultimately here. I am definitely grateful for that competition, that time and that league.”

One former Paul VI player to make the majors is lefty reliever Mike Venafro, a product of JMU who appeared in 307 games in The Show with several teams.

Lawson hit .269 with 12 homers this past season for the Vols. He was teammates with Trey Lipscomb, who hit .355 with 22 homers for Tennessee and is now with Fredericksburg after he was drafted in the third round by the Nationals.

“This is definitely different than college ball,” said Lawson, slated to take part in Instructional League this fall in Florida.

“It is definitely a learning curve and glad I was able to do that. I want to get better in all areas. The instructors will get to see me and get extra reps” in West Palm Beach.

FredNats’ manager Jake Lowery said Lawson has gotten off to a slow start at the plate but did hit a grand slam on Friday.

“That helped him settle in,” Lowery said.

Lawson is one of several Fredericksburg players with ties to the DMV:

Pitcher Brendan Collins is from Olney, Maryland in Montgomery County.

Outfielder Wood is from Rockville, Maryland and played at St. John’s in D.C. before transferring to IMG Academy in Florida.

Infielder Lipscomb is from Frederick, Maryland and went to Urbana High.

Lowery is from the Richmond area and played college ball in Harrisonburg at JMU.

Fredericksburg’s Nationals (66-53) begin a series at home Tuesday against Delmarva, a farm team of the Orioles.