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Souza has plenty to be thankful for this holiday season

Nats outfielder got first taste of Majors, made diving catch to seal no-hitter

WASHINGTON -- Just by talking to Nationals outfielder Steven Souza Jr., one can tell that he looks forward to Thanksgiving. It means spending time with his family, including his parents, in Everett, Wash.

About 20 family members attend the festivities, and Souza looks forward to eating deep fried turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes and gravy and shrimp salad. He said his mother, two aunts and grandmother are tremendous cooks.

"I can't wait for their home cooking," Souza said. "They all have their special dishes. It's so fun to just sit there, look at all the food and devour it."

Eating all that great food isn't the only reason he is thankful. Just being around the family makes him happy. Also patriotic, Souza loves living in the United States.

"It's a great country. It's the land of opportunity," Souza said. "There is so much to be thankful for, really. It's hard to nail it down to one."

Souza is also thankful that his baseball career is flourishing. This season, Souza was named the Nationals' Minor League Player of the Year after hitting .350 with 18 home runs and 75 RBIs for Triple-A Syracuse.

"So many great staff members and great players down in Triple-A," Souza said. "It was just fun. I thank God for keeping me healthy and allowing me to compete every day. It was such a blast."

Souza, 25, even received a taste of big league life and showed that he will go through a wall to get the job done. Who could forget when he slammed into the right-field wall in August in Atlanta while trying to catch a fly ball off the bat of Freddie Freeman? Souza would suffer a shoulder contusion, but was back on the field in a couple of weeks.

Video: [email protected]: Souza slams into the right-field wall

And then there was the last day of the season, when Souza made arguably the best catch of 2014.

Souza entered the game in the bottom of the ninth inning as a defensive replacement for left fielder Ryan Zimmerman. With two outs, the Marlins' Christian Yelich came to the plate and hit a 2-1 pitch toward left-center field.

Center fielder Michael Taylor knew he didn't have a chance to catch the ball. But there was Souza, who dove and caught the ball like a wide receiver for the final out to help Jordan Zimmermann notch his first no-hitter.

"The catch, I get asked about it almost every time I see someone in a baseball environment," Souza said. "It was just an awesome moment for our team, mostly for Jordan. It capped off such an amazing year. It's one thing I will never forget. Nats fans will never forget, too. It's great to cap off Jordan's amazing year."

Next year is expected to be even better for Souza. He has a good chance of being one of the club's reserves. The Nationals need pop off the bench and, if he performs well in Spring Training, Souza could land a spot once the season starts.

"I'm ready. Whatever role is thrown at me, I'm going to be ready to go," Souza said.

Souza is humble when he discusses his career. He acknowledges that he needs to work on his outfield skills. He said his love for the Lord helps him face reality.

"It wasn't always like this. There was a lot of selfishness," Souza said. "Now this game is so fun and such a blessing. There is a lot to be thankful for. I don't try to take credit for everything that I do. I just try to be a part of the team."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.
Read More: Washington Nationals, Steven Souza Jr.