10 years later, Meneses savoring first MLB camp

February 20th, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Compared to most players, did things a little out of order.

First, he belted 13 homers and drove in 34 runs in his 56-game debut last season. Then, he reported to his first Major League camp this month.

Meneses, 30, broke onto the big league scene in 2022 with the Nationals after grinding through the Minor Leagues for 10 years. Throughout his journey, which included reaching Triple-A with the Phillies and the Red Sox, he never participated in Major League Spring Training.

But after putting on a head-turning performance in the two months following his big league debut on Aug. 2, Meneses has a seat with his fellow starting position players in the Nationals clubhouse at their training complex.

“I am very, very happy to be here in West Palm,” Meneses said.

This year, Meneses is setting out to carry the momentum of 2022 -- during which he slashed .324/.367/.563 with a .930 OPS -- into his first full season in the Majors. In order to do so, his goals are to stay healthy, stay focused and play the right way.

While he looks for consistency in his production, the plan is for his defensive assignments to change. Manager Dave Martinez is expecting Meneses to alternate between first base (backing up Dominic Smith), left field (backing up Corey Dickerson) and the designated hitter role. Meneses made 40 appearances at first, 22 in right field and three in left field last season (the totals add up to more than 56, since he played multiple positions in nine games).

“Joey’s probably going to do a lotta bit of a little bit of everywhere,” Martinez quipped, adding, “We want his bat in the lineup every day.”

As Meneses settles into his first Major League Spring Training, he is about to embark on another significant first: He will play for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. When he returns to camp (Team Mexico is competing in Pool C in Phoenix, Ariz.), the Nats will look to get him reps in left field and as the DH since he already has experience at first.

“It means a lot,” Meneses said. “I feel so proud to play in the World Baseball Classic. I saw that before on the TV, and I always wanted to participate in one. I don’t know if the next time I will go, so I would like to take advantage of this moment.”

These moments are the culmination of Meneses’ hustle over the years, and his drive to maximize the opportunity last season once he reached the big stage. For the first time in a decade, Meneses enjoyed the offseason as a Major Leaguer with an established role, a member of a WBC team and even as the subject of a song written by his friend, a musician in Mexico, about his baseball journey.

“It’s a little weird,” Meneses said of the recognition he has garnered since last season. “I’m not used to getting attention, or being the guy that wants the attention.”