Team Can Pinch-Hit Maxwell: He's Working, Not Dreaming

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 11, 2007

MIAMI, Sept. 10 -- Center fielder Justin Maxwell turned down Harvard to attend the University of Maryland, so this is not a guy often in the dark. But he admitted feeling perplexed during his first few days with the Washington Nationals after his call-up last week, when some of the position players started disappearing from the dugout at about the fifth inning.

"I was wondering where everyone was going," Maxwell, a 2005 fourth-round draft pick, said before Monday's game against the Florida Marlins.

Finally, during last weekend's series against the Atlanta Braves, Maxwell got an answer. He went hunting for his teammates and found them in a batting cage underneath the stadium seats, taking swings. When informed they were preparing for a possible summons to pinch-hit, Maxwell raced into the dugout to get his bat and gloves, so he, too, could prepare.

"I figured out the routine," he said.

Maxwell, a Montgomery County native who hit 27 home runs and drove in 86 runs in two Class A stops this summer, is trying to adapt not only to life in the major leagues, but also to the demands of being a reserve. Entering Monday night, he was 0 for 2 as a pinch hitter.

"You can never dream too big," he said. "You shoot for the stars and you could reach the moon. Hopefully, I will get my first start soon, and get some more experience."

So far, Maxwell's experiences have been fun -- and humbling. At the Braves' Turner Field, he noted that the noise from the outfield seats during batting practice was more raucous than he had experienced in any game setting.

And then there's been the expected razzing from veterans. Maxwell was forced to take dinner and drink orders, he said, on the team flight out of Atlanta on Sunday.

Maxwell's stint as team waiter beat the treatment given the young call-ups in the bullpen, who had to carry pink children's backpacks.

Ross Detwiler, this year's first-round draft pick, hung his "Strawberry Shortcake" backpack in the front of his locker. Jonathan Albaladejo stuffed his "My Little Pony" pack on an upper shelf of his locker. He filled it with cans of Red Bull.

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