What comes next for veteran Uggla?
When Dan Uggla arrived at Space Coast Stadium in late February, he carried doubts— his own and those of others.
Could he still play? Could he still see? Had age or injury or some other unidentifiable force stolen his ability to hit home runs like few in fielders of the last decade have? Could he actually make the roster?
The 35-year-old did not have much chance to answer those questions, with 119 sporadic at-bats and 23 starts entering Saturday’s doubleheader. But after his 2014 season ended ingloriously— cut by the Braves, then the Giants— Uggla earned an unlikely spot on the Nationals’ opening day roster and never gave it up.
“I would have loved to have gotten to play more, but at the same time, that’s not the way that worked out and I’m still happy to be a part of this team and a part of this organization,” Uggla said. “Regardless of what happens, this is an awesome team with all the guys we have. It’s just been fun to be a part of that.”
In 139 plate appearances, Uggla hit .176 with a home run and 15 RBI. That home run was one of the biggest of the Nationals’ season— the goahead home run in Atlanta that capped an eight-run comeback in April.
What he did or didn’t contribute on the field was less important to these Nationals than his presence in the clubhouse, where he was a perpetually chipper figure, joking with teammates, doling out hugs, even when things went wrong.
Memorable scenes include him skipping into the dugout singing a Taylor Swift song, joking with Trea Turner— 14 years his junior— about an error, and his relentless clubhouse practice of giving hugs to almost anyone who came close enough to receive one. Never a full-time bench player before, Uggla’s attitude did not fluctuate.
“Watching the game from the bench, watching on TV and stuff, you start to dissect the game more than you normally would,” Uggla said. “I’ve been making a conscious effort not to do that and to remember, man this game’s hard.
“It’s easy to be like ‘man, why didn’t you go to third on that?’ When at the same time, I’ve been in that situation a thousand times and you just gotta remember that this game’s a lot harder than what it looks like. It’s given me an opportunity to talk to other guys about the game.
“Maybe stuff I wasn’t so good at or didn’t know, certain way I’ve been able to talk to other guys about it and get it mentally. It’s been different, but it’s been good.”