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Walters on his offseason, getting sick in Venezuela

Feb 4, 2014, 4:08 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Heading into a year he hopes to make the Nationals’ roster out of spring training, infielder Zach Walters put in extra time this offseason playing winter ball in Venezuela. The experience in the South American country, however, got off to an ominous start.

Walters fell ill on the second day there with a virus and had trouble keeping food down. The 24-year-old shared the experience at Nats Fest in late January.

“I was in Venezuela and unfortunately I got a stomach virus my second day there,” he said. “I felt weak. I couldn’t eat anything, I couldn’t drink anything. It didn’t really do my body very good.”

Getting sick in a foreign country was difficult for Walters who does not speak Spanish. Communicating with trainers and doctors became a challenge.

“I wouldn’t say it was scary. I was more so worried because no one’s out there. I didn’t know anybody. Everybody speaks Spanish. How am I going to tell somebody that I can’t communicate with, ‘Hey, my stomach…’ And he’s like, ‘food?'”

Walters said actually flying to the country might have been even worse.

“The scariest part I think was flying for me because I can’t sleep on a plane. I was just up the whole time, people speaking Spanish and yelling at me when I had no idea what they were saying.”

Despite getting sick and an unfortunate travel experience, Walters enjoyed his time in Venezuela.

“I had a good time out there. It’s very different,” he said. “Baseball, you know you hit a pop-up and all of a sudden you got a marching band in the audience. They go crazy, there are drums, people yelling and dancing. It was fun.”

Walters knows the upcoming big league camp will be an important one for him. He could play his way back to Washington, or find himself back in Syracuse where he spent most of 2013.

Walters is prepared for either scenario.

“For me personally, if they want me anywhere I’ll be there,” he said. “If I’m up with the team, that’s great. If I’m not, it’s great for me. I’m not worried about that.”

If given the choice, however, Walters would obviously pick the big leagues.

“The food tastes better, the air is crisper, it’s the life,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. You’re getting paid to play a kid’s game. You’re around guys that love doing what you do.”

Walters recorded three hits and scored two runs in eight September games with the Nationals. His call-up was a reward for a terrific season at Syracuse where he hit 29 home runs in 134 games.

This year Walters hopes to improve his play in the field, be a good teammate and a more mature player overall. Part of that process, he says, is following instructions from veteran players.

Last year Walters was told by Jayson Werth to take off a pair of custom shoe laces he had on his cleats. Next time Walters will know better.

“If Werth asks you to do something, you make sure you do that.”

  1. tcostant - Feb 4, 2014 at 4:26 PM

    Don’t play winter ball in Venezuela, ask Ramos. They are so many better places in the Dominican or Mexico to play. Hope lesson learned…

    • NatsLady - Feb 4, 2014 at 4:29 PM

      He didn’t want to go to Venezuela. He tweeted to that effect before he went.

  2. Section 222 - Feb 4, 2014 at 5:06 PM

    Pick which attitude going into spring training you prefer:

    Player 1: “For me personally, if they want me anywhere I’ll be there,” he said. “If I’m up with the team, that’s great. If I’m not, it’s great for me. I’m not worried about that.”

    Player 2: “I’m just going in just like every other year, work hard, do my own thing and try to win some ballgames and we’ll see how it goes,” he said recently at NatsFest. “It’s not my decision in the end. If they feel that I can help the team, then it’s going to be me. If not, I’ll be cheering on the other teammates.”

    Player 3: “I’ve never asked for anything to be handed to me. But if I can get a fair opportunity to win my job, I feel like I can do it …. “If I can come and do what I did in spring last year…. there’s no reason I shouldn’t have my job…..Mike’s never said anything about being a utility guy or being a backup role guy. ….The only thing he said is, he’s going to give me a fair opportunity to win my job back. I guess if I don’t win my job, that could be something that I fall into, maybe. But he’s never said, ‘You’re the utility guy now.’ He said, ‘I’m going to give you a chance to win your job back.’ ”

    • Jb - Feb 4, 2014 at 5:35 PM

      If this was a job interview, #1 and #2 would never get called back. #3 would get hired. Attitude is irrelevant in spring training. It’s performance that counts.

  3. David Proctor - Feb 4, 2014 at 5:10 PM

    Posting from the other thread:

    “But even though the Nationals couldn’t lure Baker, they remain highly interested in another Scott Boras client, left-handed reliever Oliver Perez, according to the person familiar with the situation. The Nationals cast a wide net for free agent left-handed relievers this winter, with Perez among the group.”

    – Wagner

    Perez has a 3.16 ERA since moving into the bullpen in 2012. His 2013 ERA looks high, but it’s a little misleading. He had one absolutely dreadful outing where he allowed 6 runs in 2/3 of an inning. If you take that away, he had a 2.75 ERA in 2013 and 2.52 ERA over the last two years. Amazing what one bad outing can do to a reliever’s ERA.

    He’s not all that good against lefties and has suspect command, though. So…I’m on the fence.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Feb 4, 2014 at 6:20 PM

      “Highly interested?” How many left-handed relievers do they need? They’ve got two for the twenty-five, one that everybody wants to demote from the rotation, and left-handed pitchers-to-be in the minors. You could make a case for Perez if he was the first one he signed but they already gave up a prospect for Blevins. This smells like something that fell from Boras’s armpit.

  4. scnatsfan - Feb 4, 2014 at 6:09 PM

    If Walters can show he can stick then Danny is nothing more then trade bait. Even if he was close you could start the year with Carroll and allow him to get significant abs and call him up later.

    Hopefully, like Desmond, the fielding gene is in there, just dormant.

  5. Eugene in Oregon - Feb 4, 2014 at 7:23 PM

    If I’m figuring the time zones correctly, the Domnican-Venezuelan Caribbean World Series game starts at 8pm DC time. Licey (the Dominican club I follow) just tweeted out a link to allow you to watch the game live on the internet. Go to:

    http://www.licey.com/television/

    Then click on the words… “Para ver la transmision…click AQUI”

    I’m not going to promise it will work, but if it does you’ve got a potentially great baseball game.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Feb 4, 2014 at 7:30 PM

      Sorry, looks like 7:30 p.m. DC time, i.e., in the next few minutes.

      • ArVAFan - Feb 4, 2014 at 7:45 PM

        Thanks, that worked. And I understand enough Spanish (at least baseball Spanish) to follow the commentary.

  6. Eugene in Oregon - Feb 4, 2014 at 7:51 PM

    “Aqui vienen los tanques!”

  7. David Proctor - Feb 4, 2014 at 8:27 PM

    I realize it’s not totally comparable, but if Freddie Freeman got 8/$135 for ONE elite season, can you even fathom the price tag on Bryce in a couple years, assuming he progresses as expected? I don’t even know where to begin with the numbers.

    • Section 222 - Feb 5, 2014 at 10:09 AM

      Begin at $300 million and go up. :-)

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