Friendship comes full circle with Nats' move

December 20th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jessica Camerato’s Nationals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

has had countless conversations with since they became best friends playing travel baseball at age 7. A recent phone call this offseason was different. Thomas, whose son Henry was born in October, had a special request.

“Funny story,” Senzel recounted last week. “The first time that his wife, Chase, was leaving him alone to watch the baby, he called me and said, ‘Hey, hey, can you come over?’ I was like, ‘You can’t be by yourself watching the young baby by yourself?’ So we’ve gotten to see Henry a ton.”

Senzel and Thomas, both now 28, will be spending even more time together this season. Senzel signed a one-year deal with the Nationals this month. He is expected to be the everyday third baseman, with Thomas locked in in right field.

“Now it’s just crazy, full circle in the big leagues,” Senzel said in an introductory video conference call. “I told him, that just never happens.”

The Nationals were on Senzel’s radar after he was non-tendered by the Reds in November. There was an opportunity at the hot corner, and Senzel -- who is shifting back to third from playing the outfield -- had a direct go-to for questions. Since being acquired by the Nats from the Cardinals in 2021, Thomas has established himself as one of the team’s key players.

“You can go straight to the source,” Senzel said. “He’s someone that’s been traded over from two different organizations and now has found a home in Washington. All I’ve ever known is Cincinnati, so being able to talk to him, kind of what to expect, he’ll obviously be honest and tell me really what to expect about everything. He’s had nothing but great things to say, and I’m just super excited that I’m going to be able to be a part of it.”

What makes these pals click?

“We just kind of balance each other out,” Senzel said. “I feel like I may be a little bit more of the chill one, he may be a little bit more of the get-it, get-up-and-go type, always on the move. … We know each other pretty in and out.”

Their paths have taken the friends from travel baseball in Knoxville, Tenn., to rival high schools to Thomas being selected by the Blue Jays in the fifth round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of high school to Senzel becoming the second overall pick by the Reds in '16 out of the University of Tennessee to Nationals Park.

“This opportunity that was brought to me, an opportunity to be able to play every day and get a new start in a historic franchise, was just kind of a no-brainer for me,” Senzel said. “Having Lane, one of my best buddies I grew up with, playing right field, it's really insane, to be honest. ... I still can’t believe that we’re going to be teammates next year.”