On a warm Saturday night in Northern Virginia, more than 5,000 fans filled a minor league ballpark for “Star Wars Night.” Ushers with lightsabers escorted families to their seats, and children scurried away from their parents and grandparents. They lined the third base wall, hoping to get a glimpse of a player or — even better — snag an autograph.
Not far away, the Fredericksburg Nationals stretched in their special Star Wars-themed jerseys. The players briefly walked into the dugout before taking the field. Most fans cheered, some gave a standing ovation, and others watched intently.
“I heard the guy right there, number 28, he’s supposed to be the next big thing,” one fan said to another as they watched the team warm up.
“He’s like 18 years old, I think, but they drafted him last year.”
That guy was Brady House, the Washington Nationals’ first-round pick in 2021. House towers over his teammates at 6-foot-4, his brown curls bouncing out of the back of his cap as he fields groundballs.
House, who turns 19 in early June, is seen as central to the Nationals’ future. That’s what happens after a trade deadline sell-off, when a fan base is left searching for glimpses of the next big thing and new names to cling to.
House isn’t living the life of a typical teenager. He made sure to have his fun — which included attending his senior prom — before he graduated from high school, but soon he was out on his own. After spring training, he fit everything he could in his pickup truck, drove from Florida and settled in near Fredericksburg, which is about 550 miles from his hometown of Winder, Ga.
He doesn’t feel he has missed out on anything — well, maybe college classes; he had committed to Tennessee — but he joked that it’s a part of his life he is okay with leaving behind.
“It’s great,” he said. “Getting to come out here and practice and play every day and not have to worry about anything else but doing that as your job — it’s really nice, especially with me being 18.”
He has never lived this far from home. He has seen his family just three times since spring training, but he said that only makes their trips that much more meaningful. House expects his brother, Brooks, his parents and his grandmother to make more trips to Virginia once Brooks’s baseball season ends.
House also had to adjust as one of the few high-schoolers when he arrived at the Florida Complex League last summer. The way professionals carried themselves was noticeably different.
“Going from high school to pro baseball with a bunch of grown men has been a change,” House said. “But I’m used to it now, I feel like, and it’s been great so far.”
Infielder Sammy Infante is one of House’s closest teammates in Fredericksburg; they are roommates on the road. Infante, 20, understands the transition House is experiencing — he was a second-round pick in 2020.
“Brady’s had a lot of success, and that only shows how good of a player he is,” Infante said. “Everything’s different in the game. So just imagine the pressure, the expectations, you not fitting in quite yet with your teammates, not knowing your coaches. It’s just a completely different atmosphere.”
House, who had a .304 batting average, three home runs and 28 RBI through 28 games, has had no trouble getting comfortable at the plate. Off the field, he has adapted, too. His daily schedule is similar for a 6 p.m. start: He wakes up, makes breakfast, then heads to the stadium and arrives around 1.
He does his early work in the batting cage, goes through team drills and takes a short break before hitting again. He doesn’t show much emotion during games, offering the same calm demeanor when he struck out in an at-bat as he did when he roped an RBI double two innings later. That’s by design for House, who aims to stay levelheaded.
“A lot of times, it’s hard for younger players to succeed with the skill sets that they have when they’re not confident in it,” hitting coach Delwyn Young said. “And what Brady’s taught me about himself is the fact that he’s confident, but you can’t really tell it.”
His manager, Jake Lowery, said House reminds him of a franchise player such as Ryan Zimmerman or Francisco Lindor, whom Lowery played with in Cleveland’s minor league system. House has asked questions when he has needed to, but Lowery said he has handled the external pressure “beautifully.”
After “Star Wars Night,” the Fredericksburg Nationals auctioned off a handful of the jerseys for charity; House’s sold for $12,300. The lucky buyers, Scott and Jennifer Ballard, admitted they weren’t planning to spend that much on a jersey. But this wasn’t just any jersey — it was Brady House’s.
“This individual, I really truly believe, is going to go somewhere,” Scott Ballard said. “I think he’s going all the way.”