FORT MYERS, Fla. — The night Steve Lombardozzi got his first major league hit was an emotional one.
His father, Stephen Lombardozzi, had spent parts of six years in the major leagues and won a World Series with the Minnesota Twins in 1987. When he was asked later where watching his son, Steve, get his first major league hit that September night in New York would have ranked with that championship in mind, the elder Lombardozzi couldn’t get out the words. The tears that welled up in his eyes gave his answer.
Monday afternoon, the next seminal moment for the younger Lombardozzi was delivered in a little lighter fashion.
After Lombardozzi hit a double to right field in the eighth inning, and later came around to score on Ian Desmond’s single, he walked past manager Davey Johnson in the dugout.
“Good thing you hit that double,” Johnson told him. “Because that was the deciding point in putting you on the 25-man roster.”
The soft-spoken Lombardozzi heard his manager but, quite honestly, wasn’t sure if that was the official word he’d been waiting for or not.
As he dressed in the visitors clubhouse at jetBlue Park, Lombardozzi was approached by a small group of reporters to get his reaction on making the Nationals’ 25-man roster out of camp.
“I guess that’s confirmation then,” he said, unable to control a wide smile. “I wasn’t completely sure. I’m pumped. That’s funny, though, because I wasn’t completely sure.”
Lombardozzi put together a fabulous spring in his first big league camp, starting with the day he walked in 15-20 pounds heavier than he was when he got called up last fall. He finished the spring batting .313 and played superb defense at third, second and short while getting his first looks in the outfield.
The Nationals view Lombardozzi as an everyday player and they made it clear from the start that they wouldn’t have put him on the major league roster if they couldn’t see a way to get him at least 300 at-bats in the big leagues this year. If he continues to perform and work the way he did this spring, they’ll find a way to get him in the lineup.
Lombardozzi, a Columbia, Md., native spent the winter living at home with his dad and the two talked constantly about the game. He hadn’t yet had a chance to give his father the good news by the time the Nationals were heading out the door for their flight back to D.C. but there’s a good chance there was an excited phone call in his future.
“I really didn’t know for sure,” Lombardozzi said, when asked if he could see the writing on the wall as the spring went on. “I just tried to keep my mind off it and go out each day and prepare and play the games and just show them what I can offer for this team.”
“I’m real excited. I’m going to have to mess with Davey a little bit, but I’m extremely excited. It’s a great group of guys and it’s going to be a great season.”