Nats' top pick will fit right in with this hobby

Cavalli shares passion for cutting hair with fellow pitchers Abad, Suero

June 18th, 2020

Their hands worked with precision and detail as they carefully maneuvered their grip. They stayed locked in while the crowd surrounding them grew louder and music played in the background, never losing sight of their objective. Even though they had been doing this for years, it still required concentration and focus each time.

Before long, they had mastered their scouting report. Some days it called for a fade, other times a quick trim or a beard touchup.

These barbers are available for all the Nationals' hairstyling needs. Simply tell them what day and time and they’ll be there with professional-grade equipment in tow -- just as long as they get their pitching work in, too.

Relievers and transformed a space in the Nats' clubhouse into a makeshift barbershop during Spring Training. It started with one chair and grew into a waiting list by the time games were halted.

Last week, Washington added to its arsenal of hair-cutting pitchers when it selected with its first pick (No. 22) in the 2020 MLB Draft. His off-the-field hobby will help him fit in with the camaraderie-building activity already established by his new teammates.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know people through some haircuts, for sure,” Cavalli said.


A 14-year-old Abad was fascinated when he made his weekly trips to see his uncle at his barbershop in the Dominican Republic. "Please show me how to cut hair," he requested. His uncle was hesitant. Abad was exhibiting promise as a young left-hander, and his uncle didn’t want him to forego his athletic pursuits.

“He said, ‘No. I don’t want to teach you that. I want you to keep playing baseball,’” Abad, 34, recounted in an interview in Spanish and English. “I said, ‘So? It doesn’t matter if I learn how to cut hair. I can do it in the USA -- my own and my teammates'.’ He showed me and I got it like that. And now you see how the people look. … I love to cut hair.”

Pitcher Roenis Elías displays his fresh haircut.

When Abad signed with Washington last December, his talents complemented those of Suero, who already had been giving his Nationals teammates haircuts. Suero’s skills caught on while he was playing in the Nationals' Dominican baseball academy. Former manager Sandy Martinez heard of his abilities, and he encouraged Suero to share them around the clubhouse.

“He told me, ‘You can cut hair for everybody here.’ After that, I liked that, I loved that -- and now I’m professional,” Suero said with a laugh.

The two had a consistent flow of clients inside FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches. Early into Spring Training, Welington Castillo was in a pinch for a haircut, and he was referred to Suero by Minor League hitting coach Jorge Mejia. Then the requests grew.

“I was looking for a guy to hair my cut here in West Palm, and I couldn’t find a Latin barbershop,” Castillo said. “Jorge Mejia told me the best barber in West Palm Beach is Suero. No chance -- I thought he was joking. … He did a really, really good job. Fernando did, too. He helped me with the lines in the beard. Both can cut hair really well. … The thing is, all the other guys came over and were asking him, ‘Is the barber chair open now?’ It made me think he’s good because everybody knows him.”

Nationals No. 29 prospect Jhonatan German shows off his haircut.

Abad and Suero quickly established reputations for their work. The quality, combined with the convenience, was a draw. Juan Soto was a return customer after receiving cuts from Suero last season.

“He’s doing the same as most of the barbershops do,” Soto said. “He said he doesn’t need you to pay ... It’s better because you don’t have to go wake up early to go somewhere else. You just come to the field. He’s good. He just does it because he likes it.”

Word spread, the crowd increased and an energetic ambiance emerged. Over the next month, the space became a hangout for players. They flanked Abad and Suero as they listened to music -- sometimes singing, even dancing along -- while the pitchers went to work.

With that, camaraderie strengthened, too. Nationals No. 4 prospect, righty Wil Crowe, still was familiarizing himself with his teammates this spring when he asked Abad if he could give him a trim. He got more than he expected.

“He’s super into it,” Crowe said. “He’s super intentional with everything he’s doing in there. He’s got the gloves, he’s got the straight razor, he’s lining you up. Then, when he’s in an easy part, he starts singing and talking with those guys. Then he’s back to work. Barbers take the comb and cut through it, he was using his fingers. It was pretty cool.

“It’s a team-building thing. It’s cool to go in there and you get to kind of know each other. It’s not all about the hair. It’s the experience.”

That experience was not limited to players. Both relievers have given manager Dave Martinez haircuts, too.

“I love it,” Martinez said. “It’s a bonding thing, for me, more than anything else. They’re in there, listening to music, talking -- it’s like a barbershop atmosphere. They’re chatting away. … It’s kind of nice to have your own in-house barber.”


While Abad and Suero were doing their thing in the Nationals' clubhouse, Cavalli had turned his kitchen into a makeshift barbershop as a student-athlete at Oklahoma. Only 21 years old, the right-hander estimates he already has given 500 haircuts to teammates, family and friends.

“It’s a good opportunity to get to know the guys,” Cavalli said. “Everyone was with each other all the time. You naturally get closer, you get to know people through that.”

Cavalli considers the fade to be his “trademark” haircut. He showcases his work on a dedicated Instagram page (@cavs_cutz) that features in-progress videos and before-and-after transformations. He’s posted over 30 cuts in 14 months.

“I’ve received probably close to a dozen haircuts from Cav,” said Brady Lindsly, Cavalli’s college teammate who also was drafted by the Nationals, in the fourth round. “They just keep getting better, so I keep going to him…. He’s given me some really good haircuts. It’s just really awesome that he does that. I think it’s hilarious. He’s really talented at it, honestly.”

Like Martinez, Sooners head coach Skip Johnson appreciated the team aspect of Cavalli’s work.

“I think it adds to some camaraderie, for sure,” Johnson said. “He’s pretty talented. He has charisma. He’s a typical barber [laughs]. It’s never a dull moment with him, so it was pretty cool.”


With each snip of the scissors, a relationship grows. The clippers and capes become just as important as the bats and gloves as a way for the players to build chemistry off the field. Just as Abad and Suero’s operation grew from one to two chairs, there could be room for a third for Cavalli.

“MLB Barbershop,” Abad said.