Luke Voit is embracing the leadership role in the Nationals’ young bullpen

Voit embraces leadership role in young Nationals club originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON — An easy way for athletes to show they embrace the city they play in is to support the other professional teams nearby. Luke Voit didn’t get a chance to do that in San Diego, where the Padres are the only team in town. But when he arrived in DC as part of the Juan Soto/Josh Bell trade, he already had a Wizards jersey ready.

Voit, 31, has taken out Bradley Beal for pregame drills on several occasions during his first month with the Nationals. Both Voit and Beal are from the St. Louis metro area, and while they’ve never met, the Wizards star called him out on Twitter when the Nationals posted some photos of the sleeveless first baseman working the infield.

“I’m just rocking some guys from the same town,” Voit said. “It was sitting in my closet, I was like, ‘I could rock it in here and rock some DC.’

Playing in Washington has been an adjustment for Voit, and not just because of the location. After spending most of the season chasing a playoff spot with the Padres, he now fits into a rebuilding club that’s fielding a slew of younger, inexperienced players with an eye toward building for the future.

For the Nationals, Voight’s impact on the young players around him is just as important as his production on the field. He prides himself on bringing a work ethic to the court every day and hopes to show his impressive teammates that only talent will get them so far.

“I’ve come out every day and put in the work early on trying to get better defensively obviously to make my career the best I can be and show these guys that hard work and dedication can do wonders in this game,” he said Voit.

“This is what brought me here and I will never lose sight of it. I just bring that mindset every day because I signed up for $5,000. I wasn’t supposed to make the big leagues and I worked my butt off to get here and I don’t want to lose it.”

No one on the Nationals’ coaching staff or front office has asked Voit, who made big plays in 2017 as a 22nd-round pick, to emerge as a leader. It’s something he decided to do on his own.

“He’s been a voice, he really has,” manager Davey Martinez said in Thursday’s pregame press conference. “He tries to lead by example. He plays the game the right way. He plays hard. One thing I can tell you about him is that he is all.

“Sometimes — I talked to him yesterday about maybe trying a little bit less and when he does that he seems to hit the ball well. So I love him. He was that leader at that club, trying to teach the young guys, but he’s been happy since he’s been here.”

With a home run in Wednesday’s win over the Oakland A’s, Voit is hitting .218 since joining the Nationals with five homers and a .709 OPS. He is under contract for two more seasons beyond 2022 and will have a chance to earn significant playing time at first base moving on with no other immediate options at the position in the organization.

Meanwhile, it’s already added a layer of toughness — and then some bare chest — in the Nationals lineup as the team forges a new identity.

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