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It’s a spell David Washington still can’t shake five years later.

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It’s a spell David Washington still can’t shake five years later.

Washington, a California native, had returned to Virginia from a long road trip with the Norfolk Tides, the triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, ready for a new series.

The then-26-year-old was in the batting cage when his now-late manager Ron Johnson casually leaned in to tell him he had been called up to the big club.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Goldeyes first baseman David Washington was tied for the AA home run lead with 26 entering Thursday play.

The first-baseman was set to meet the Orioles in Chicago the next night for his MLB debut against the White-Sox.

“Obviously a very exciting time for me,” Washington told the Free Press on Thursday at Shaw Park.

His time wouldn’t last long, though. Washington appeared at the plate six times over three games, striking out five times and failing to record a hit.

It would be the last time he play in an MLB park.

“It’s hard to talk about it, not like it’s bad or anything. Obviously an amazing time getting to the big leagues, a life-long dream. Getting there and not having the success that I had hoped for, and having it be a brief stint is something that you don’t really stop thinking about,” he said.

“It’s kind of hard to explain to people how that can be bittersweet… It’s a cool thing to be able to say and it’s a culmination of a lot of work, so for me, it’s more about everything that went into (getting there) than the moment itself.”

Washington was drafted in the 15th round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, who he would sign with after he graduated from high school.

He chose a career on the diamond instead of the hardwood, despite having garnered some attention from several Division II schools for his basketball talent.

But Washington’s hope to make it back to the major leagues took a hit when he didn’t re-sign with Norfolk after the 2017 season. Instead, he would move to Long Island, where he got his first taste of independent ball with the Ducks in the Atlantic League.

“I think everybody who gets to this indy-ball stage has some version of ‘the phone stops ringing,’ he said. “That was the off-season before 2018 for me. That was a bit of a roller coaster as far as staying level-headed and patient with the process and staying sane.”

Washington never wavered in his will to play the game. But he did have a critical period of introspection that allowed him to come to terms with his new standing.

“There’s definitely a moment — and I think this happens for everybody that goes from affiliate ball to independent ball — where you have to kind of figure out what exactly you’re playing for, right? I think for a lot of people, it’s that childhood dream of getting to the big leagues.”

For Washington, his answer came at the end of 2018, when he decided that he simply wanted to play baseball at the highest level possible for as long as he could.

“It’s a cliché, but we all know this game is going to be finished for all of us one day. So, I’m gonna take the time that I have left and I’m gonna enjoy the process. That’s kind of carried me to this point I don’t drive myself crazy wondering where it is that I’m going to be next.”

Washington joined the Winnipeg Goldeyes this season after two productive years with the Milwaukee Milkmen.

This season, the now 31-year-old has taken his game to another level, sporting a .292 batting average and a league-leading 26 home runs (tied with teammate Max Murphy) and 70 RBI.

He was named American Association’s batter of the week from Aug. 8-14 with an eye-popping .625 average, four home runs and 13 RBI across six games.

“He has this quiet presence that you really don’t notice until he comes up in a big situation and then hits an absolute nuke somewhere,” said Goldeyes infielder Ian Sagdal.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Washington was drafted in the 15th round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals,

“I feel like the way he approaches the game — the way he prepares for the game — really rubs off on people.”

Sagdal shared what’s been a first for him in baseball, seeing Washington journal each at-bat when he returns to the dugout.

Along with shortstop Kevin Lachance, the pair write down each pitch, the location of those pitches, and the result of each at-bat to determine how they should adjust in-game.

“It’s stuff like that, that you see and you’re like ‘wow, OK, that’s taking the game to a whole new level.’ That, to me, shows a ton of knowledge of the game and professionalism,” Sagdal said.

Part of Washington’s success with the bat has come with the decision to become a switch-hitter — an effective one at that.

Naturally a lefty bat, it’s a skill Washington’s worked on for seven years, since his days with the Cardinals organization, where he watched Matt Carpenter hit as many pitches in the batting cage from a right stance as he would a left stance.

Without consulting Carpenter as to why he practised it, he decided to implement the training into his own regimen.

This season, with the Goldeyes facing more left-handed pitchers than normal and with Washington hitting well, he figured it was the right time to put his training to use.

“I was thinking ‘I have this skill that — I don’t know if it works — but I definitely have it and I feel like it might be worth getting into,’” he said. “It’s gone about as well as I could’ve hoped for.”

While he’s found his stride on the wrong side of 30, Washington won’t put a limit on his playing career but said he doesn’t see an end approaching.

“Nobody can predict the future, but I imagine there will be a time where I’ll be physically able and mentally willing, but the circumstances won’t fit to where I feel like it’s the best thing I could be doing.”

Washington and the Goldeyes will start a 10-day road trip tonight against the Sioux City Explorers.

jfreysam@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jfreysam

Joshua Frey-Sam

Joshua Frey-Sam
Reporter

Joshua Frey-Sam happily welcomes a spirited sports debate any day of the week.

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