Washington Nationals outfielder Nate McLouth said he was sitting on the bench at Nationals Park on Monday night, and a weird feeling took over.
His new team was playing against his old team. And though that has happened before for McLouth — he has been on four major league clubs — this one seemed different.
“It was a little strange. I was here so recently, and had that [Orioles] uniform on so recently, and it’s a very similar team to last year and the year before, so it was a little strange,” McLouth said. “But I’m glad they are doing good. With the teams so close, I have a chance to keep up with them, and it’s good to see them atop the division.”
McLouth, 32, spent part of the 2012 season and all of last year with the Orioles before signing a two-year, $10.75 million deal with the Nationals this offseason. Wednesday was his first game back at Camden Yards since last September.
“This stadium, I love playing here. This is such a nice place,” McLouth said. “It is cool to be back.”
McLouth signed with the Nationals knowing that he would be a fourth outfielder and likely wouldn’t play as much as he did with the Orioles, when he started about two-thirds of the time. But he didn’t think he would have as much difficulty transitioning to his new role.
He had just four hits in 37 at-bats in April (.108 average) and has been trying to recover from that start since then. Heading into Wednesday, he was batting .194 with one homer and seven RBIs in 124 at-bats this season and .230 since May 1.
Because of injuries to outfielder Bryce Harper and others, McLouth has started 32 games — but only five since June 2 now that Washington’s lineup is healthy again.
“It was a horrible start. I have trouble adjusting to not getting consistent at-bats and obtaining a rhythm when I do get them,” McLouth said. “The games that I have started, it’s been good. I’ve had a good rhythm in the box.” I’ve just had a tough time adjusting to it — and I knew that was the role it was going to be. I’m definitely feeling better, but it was a little bit of a tough adjustment.”
McLouth gave the Orioles a spark in the second half of 2012, coming up from the minors and solidifying left field and the leadoff spot once right fielder Nick Markakis was injured. His addition was one reason the club ended its 14-season playoff drought.
“Nothing but awesome memories,” McLouth said. “In 2012, when we were coming down the stretch, that might be my best baseball memory so far in my career. Just the atmosphere here and how excited the fans were. It was just a fun, fun time and something I’m so glad I got to experience.”
In his short time with the Orioles, McLouth became a fan favorite for his hustle, speed and his flowing blond locks, which he cut this spring training because he said he constantly and mindlessly played with his hair all the time, annoying those around him.
When asked how he thought the Camden Yards crowd would respond to him this week while he’s in a Nationals’ uniform, he joked: “I was only here for a year and two to three months. I just hope they remember me.”