Camel-lot camp: Nationals 'embrace the hump'

Faced with proverbial postseason hump, manager Martinez embraces zoological strategy

February 28th, 2018

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Ever since Dave Martinez became the Nationals' manager this winter, he has faced questions about getting the team over the proverbial hump -- its inability to win a postseason series.
So on Wednesday morning, he decided to bring the "hump" to the Nats -- in the form of three camels.
As the Nationals gathered for their morning circle-of-trust meeting, third-base coach Bobby Henley and first-base coach Tim Bogar rode on the backs of the camels, as the song "My Humps" by The Black Eyed Peas blared through the speakers.
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"I want it out there," Martinez said. "For me, as I thought about it, the hump is every day. And I want them to embrace it, not fear it. And have fun with it."
The idea came to Martinez during the winter, although it took some time to pull off because he had to figure out where to find camels. Martinez found a family nearby that raises camels, and they brought in three: Lawerence, Blondie and Brownie. Convincing Henley and Bogar to ride them was easy.
The players formed a line and walked past the camels on the way to the workout while Henley randomly screamed "hump day" from the top of his camel. Unfortunately, one of the camels relieved himself on one of the practice fields -- a "No. 2 on Field 3," center fielder Michael A. Taylor joked -- but the players enjoyed them, anyway.

"We've never had anything like this," first baseman said. "It's a good thing."
"The one was looking at me funny," right-hander said with a laugh. "It was showing its tooth at me and it had kind of a crazy look in its eye."
It's a hint of the personality of the Nationals' new manager, who is charged with the task of getting this team over that hump. Martinez inherits a team that has won four division titles in six seasons, but never made it past the National League Division Series. The past two seasons have ended in a disappointing loss at home in Game 5 of the NLDS, which ultimately cost the previous manager, Dusty Baker, his job.

Martinez was the bench coach under Cubs manager Joe Maddon the past three seasons, and in Chicago, the team made a habit of embracing whatever question there was surrounding them.
"I've always believed as a coach and as a player later in my career, we need to make this fun and enjoyable," Martinez said. "I want these guys to wake up in the morning wanting to come to the ballpark every day."

Taylor added: "It's just playing a game. I don't think there's any obstacle that's there that's really stopping us from getting to that next level and just winning the next game and then winning the next game. And I think that's the message that he's trying to put across."
The comparisons to Maddon are inevitable, of course. Maddon has become well known for bringing in zoo animals and such, and Martinez spent the past decade under Maddon. But as Martinez walked off the field before the workout, a fan screamed to him to ask whether he was channeling his inner Maddon.
"No," Martinez responded. "That's me channeling me."