Nate McLouth, who spent two months of the 2012 season and all of last year with the Orioles, signed a two-year deal last week with the Washington Nationals worth a guaranteed $10.75 million with an option for a third year.
McLouth will make $5 million in 2014 and $5 million in 2015, as well as a $6.5 million option with a $750,000 buyout for 2016.
The 32-year-old McLouth was without a job in May 2012 when the Pittsburgh Pirates granted him his release. He hooked on with the Orioles as a minor leaguer, worked his way back to the major leagues and provided a spark for the club as it advanced to the 2012 playoffs. He then played in 146 games with the Orioles last year, batting .258 with 12 home runs and 30 steals while becoming a fan favorite with his hustling style.
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McLouth was on vacation with his wife when the agreement with the Nationals was reached, but he was home Thursday in Knoxville, Tenn., and granted a phone interview about why he is now with the Nationals and about his time in Baltimore.
Why did you choose the Nationals?
“They presented an interesting situation for me. It was not a place I had even really considered as being an option at the beginning of the offseason because they already had three very good outfielders. But they presented me with a unique opportunity, they are a very good ballclub and it was an offer I was interested in and ended up taking.”
Was there a concern because the Nationals have three set starting outfielders?
“They kind of presented me an opportunity from the standpoint that a couple of their guys had battled injuries the past couple years: [Jayson] Werth and the way Bryce Harper plays, it’s tough for him not to be nicked up once and a while. So they told me I was going to get a lot of at-bats, and I trust what they say and am excited about the opportunity.”
What are your thoughts on leaving Baltimore?
“It was real hard not to be going back to Baltimore. I really enjoyed being there and getting to know some people really well and make some new friends. And, to me, that’s the hardest part of leaving a place: the relationships you leave behind. The baseball aspect is fairly similar. It’s the same game, the same kind of routine, wherever you play. But it is the people you get to know and not just the players. It’s the media relations [people], the community relations [people], the media; the people that you build relationships with over a period of time. So to have to leave that behind and not to see those people every day, that’s the hardest part for me. And, of course, with the fans, too. The relationships I’ve made in the community and some of the work that my wife and I were fortunate enough to be able to do, that’s the kind of stuff that I’ll miss.”
Did you think about how it would be viewed in Baltimore that you left for the geographic rival?
“No, not really, because they are in different leagues, and I think we’ll play them, if they did the same thing as last year, two in Baltimore and two in Washington. So that didn’t cross my mind too much.”
What are your thoughts about the Orioles not making an offer to try and re-sign you?
“I was kind of the mindset that the Orioles don’t owe me anything. They don’t owe me that. If they wanted to bring me back, then they would have. But it’s just the way it is. That’s fine with me. It’s not personal. I enjoyed every second I was there and will walk away with nothing but good memories. No, it didn’t bother me that they didn’t [make an offer].”
Did you get a sense of how you will fit into the Nationals clubhouse?
“I had a chance to speak with [manager] Matt Williams and Mike Rizzo, their general manager, just to kind of get a little bit of a feel for what they are all about. In thinking about their roster, the only person I have really ever played with was Adam LaRoche, and he is one of my favorite all-time teammates. And he vouched for the way they did things there, and I kind took that word for it. And it sounds like a good situation there.”
Did you call LaRoche before making the decision?
“Yep. I talked to him and just found out how the clubhouse is and just things non-baseball related. Things about the area and things like that.”
What specifically will stand out in your time with Baltimore?
“I would say there are a ton of things. I don’t think I ever had more fun playing baseball than I did that year and two months or whatever it was in Baltimore. It was so much fun to be able to see winning in Baltimore because I know it had been rough for a while. And the way the fans came out and supported us, it was just a neat, neat time. And I’m just grateful that they gave me that opportunity to come back and resurrect my career a little bit. It is something I will always be grateful for. All the people I got to form relationships with and get to know, that made it real special.”
Can you put into words how things have changed since you were granted your release from the Pittsburgh Pirates in May 2012 and now?
“I didn’t know what was going to happen at that time. And, Baltimore, Dan and Buck, gave me the opportunity to come in and get back to [my style of play]. And that is something I’ll always be thankful for. I didn’t really think about [the future] at that time because I was more worried about being in the big leagues, period. And trying to get it rolling again. It certainly worked out well and I’m certainly excited for the next part of my career to get started.”
Any final thoughts on you, Baltimore, the Orioles?
“Just that it was probably the most fun I‘ve had on a baseball field. It wasn’t because it was a different game I was playing, but because of the atmosphere and way we were able to bring winning back to Baltimore. A lot of people had a lot more to do with that than I did, but it was just nice to be a part of that and see how much joy it brought to the fans and the community and the wonderful people I got to know there.”