Noll's new knack; honoring Hispanic heritage

Nationals unveil 2021 Spring Training schedule

September 16th, 2020

First base, second base, third base, outfield ... now put catcher on the list of positions could play for the Nationals.

The team added the 26-year-old utilityman to its taxi squad for the road series in St. Petersburg. Noll made his 2020 season debut on Tuesday in a ninth-inning pinch-hit at-bat in which he sent a sharp line drive that manager Dave Martinez described as a “missile” into center field for a single.

“That was nice to see,” Martinez said on Wednesday.

Noll had been impressing at the alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va. He garnered praise for his maturity, leadership, defense and “unbelievable” at-bats.

Martinez has seen growth and determination from Noll, who has been with the Nationals' organization since being taken in the seventh round of the 2016 MLB Draft and made his Major League debut in '19. After appearing in eight games last season for Washington, Noll had been working to earn his way back.

“A lot of these guys, like myself, you come up to the big leagues for the first time and things don’t go well, but you learn a lot about yourself and you come back a different person,” Martinez said. “I can see that in some of these guys, with Jake being one of them. He has a little confidence now. He understands who he is, what he needs to do. It’s good to watch him.”

In addition to the multitude of positions Noll had played in the organization, the staff saw a new opportunity for him -- behind the plate. Noll had experience catching in college at Florida Gulf Coast University, and the Nationals thought he could be a fit if they were to need a third catcher.

“We talked about it, and he said he’s willing to do that,” Martinez said. “I told him, ‘It’s not like you’re going to get back there and catch, but if something did happen or an emergency happened, if you can do it, it’s only a plus for you.' It really is, because he plays multiple positions, so just adding another position for him is pretty good.”

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month
Major League Baseball is honoring Hispanic Heritage Month Friday through Sunday, and the Nationals are highlighting their players over the weekend.

The team will feature videos with , , and . Each player will share how they grew up and their experiences playing baseball in Venezuela -- as the case for Sánchez and Cabrera -- and the Dominican Republic -- as the case for Soto. They also will highlight their favorite foods and traditions.

“I think it’s important to be recognized not only in baseball, but everywhere,” Martinez said of Hispanic Heritage Month. “For me, it’s part of our culture, and it’s nice that people understand what our culture is and how Hispanics live their everyday lives. It’s nice to be recognized.”

Spring Training schedule revealed
The 2021 Spring Training schedule was announced on Wednesday, and the Nats are slated to play their first game on Feb. 27 against the Astros at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Fla. The Nationals also are scheduled to face the Cardinals, Braves, Marlins, Mets and Tigers in Grapefruit League action, with the finale on March 28 against St. Louis. Following Spring Training, the 2021 regular season is scheduled to open on April 1, with all 30 teams playing that day.