WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Sammy Infante and his family had rented a home in West Palm Beach, an hour north of his hometown of Hialeah, for a 2020 Draft party. distance he was – literally – at the next stage of his career.
That night, Infante was selected in the second round by the Nationals, whose practice complex is located at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in the same city as his celebration rally. It was coincidentally that Infante was nearby on draft night, and it’s through hard work that he’s now here for Minor League camp.
“It’s a different world from baseball [since the Draft]said Infante, 20, on Thursday. “I’ve learned and grown so much as a young man and as a baseball player that it’s night and day.”
Infante is ranked as the Nationals’ No. 14 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. Last season he competed in the Florida Complex League and cut .215/.329/.364 with 26 hits, 15 RBIs, three homers and a line of stolen bases in 37 games. Infante split his time on defense at second base (136 2/3 innings, .969 fielding percentage) and shortstop (101 2/3 innings, .938 fielding percentage).
Playing against the best prospects from other teams was a valuable eye-opening experience.
“I was here all last year and learned how to fight through adversity,” Infante said. “In my baseball career before I was a pro, I didn’t really face too much adversity – it was about win, win, win, have a good time. Now, here, I I had difficult moments, very strong moments from which I learned a world.
This offseason, Infante has made changes to all areas of his game. From improving his punching mechanics, to improving his speed, to increasing his strength to get reps on second and second. shortstop, he’s approached his job with the goal of becoming an everyday player who won’t miss a game this season.
“If there’s one thing I don’t want to do is sit around and miss all the fun,” Infante said. “I just want to help the team win.”
Infante uses the pre-season camp as an opportunity to glean knowledge and advice that will help his game to the next level and beyond. The Nationals’ revamped Minor League player development staff consists of coaches that Infante, who grew up as a Red Sox fan, admired during his time playing, including the outfield/outfield coordinator. base Coco Crisp and quality control coordinator Bill Mueller.
“It’s a surreal feeling,” Infante said. “I want to take one thing that I can learn from each of them and apply it to my game because they were where I wanted to be. If anyone knows how to get me there, it’ll be him.
Infante doesn’t need to look beyond the infield for inspiration either. Dee Strange-Gordon, one of Infante’s favorite players from his hometown of Marlins, is also in the minor league camp after signing a minor league deal with the Nationals in December. Infante is waiting for the right moment to approach the big league veteran, who he described as ‘the spark plug to start an inning’.
“I’m going to play it cool – ‘Hey man, what’s up?'” Infante said. “But inside, the little child in me is freaking out.”
Despite all the ways Infanta’s life has changed since being selected by Washington nearly two years ago, he has a familiarity with close friends and family. Before turning professional, he hadn’t been away from home more than a weekend at a time to play travel ball. Now, he’s still only an hour’s drive away — that same trip he took to West Palm Beach for Draft night in 2020.
“It’s great,” he said. “It’s such an ideal situation.”