Who is the Nationals’ clubhouse leader?

September 21st, 2022

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.

The Nationals added more than a veteran bat when Luke Voit was acquired from the Padres on Aug. 2 -- they also gained a leader who was eager to step up in a clubhouse that had just become significantly younger at the Trade Deadline.  

“I love his passion,” said manager Dave Martinez. “He loves to play the game. When I first talked to him on the phone, he said, ‘I’m going to do everything I can to help you guys win every day,’ and it’s been that.” 

Voit, 31, has been competitive for as long as he can remember, from playing baseball to checkers to video games. With that desire to win comes a drive to help those around him succeed, too.  

“I think it’s something that I grew up with,” Voit said. “It’s always been an instinct to compete and win, but also make sure everybody’s as best suited for those situations as they possibly can be.”

After making his Major League debut with the Cardinals in 2017, Voit was dealt to the Yankees the following July. From '18-21, he soaked up as much as he could about becoming a leader on this level from his teammates in the Bronx.  

Seeking out the insight of veterans, Voit appreciated what he learned from 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia and Gold Glove outfielder Brett Gardner.  

“Kind of completely different leaders,” Voit said. “One guy had that ‘himself against the world’ mentality, and then one was just a firecracker, constantly bringing energy. So it was a good mix to have both those guys. Gardner’s the firecracker, for sure … [CC would] go out there, give his 110 percent to be there for the guys, always [be] on the top step of the dugout and pulling guys aside if something was going wrong.” 

A player didn’t have to be the most experienced on the team, either, for Voit to glean valuable lessons. 2022 AL MVP favorite Aaron Judge is one year younger than Voit, and he was in his third season when Voit was traded to New York.  

“I would say Aaron Judge is a big one, just because he’s so calm, cool and collected all the time. No panic,” Voit said. “Always engaging with everybody, and he didn’t even see it half the time, I feel like. He just will never say anything bad about anybody. It’s nice to see guys that are that good and be so humble at the same time.”

It’s with that perspective that Voit has quickly immersed himself in a Nationals roster that includes an emerging 21-year-old standout shortstop in CJ Abrams and a 42-year-old designated hitter in Nelson Cruz. Teammates and staff have taken note of the example set by his daily preparation and in-game communication and interactions.  

“Obviously, [age] doesn’t matter,” Voit said. “I want guys, whether they have five days of big league time or 15 years, to feel the same. That’s what the biggest trait that I learned from the Yankees probably was -- just everybody’s treated the same, in the training room, in the weight room, off the field, in the clubhouse. Obviously, there’s certain things that you’re not supposed to do as well; that’s where we hold you accountable. But you’ve got a big league jersey on, so represent yourself, your team and your family as well as you can.”