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Alex Call collects five RBIs in win vs. Cardinals

ST. LOUIS — Alex Call wanted to be like Brett Favre. Growing up in River Falls, Wisc., he admired the Hall of Fame quarterback on the field, including when he played football himself. So when the Nationals’ team-building football jersey day happened to coincide with the best game of Call’s career, he was able to enjoy discussing his standout performance while wearing the iconic No. 4 Packers uniform. 

“I’m thrilled you guys get to see me in this,” Call said after going 4-for-5 with one home run, two runs scored and five RBIs in the Nationals’ 11-6 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Thursday afternoon.

Hours before Call donned Green Bay’s green and gold, he suited up in the Nats’ road grays and slid into the starting lineup because center fielder Victor Robles was a late scratch with neck stiffness. Call was working on a Sudoku puzzle when manager Dave Martinez told him he was in the lineup. Call quickly leapt up from his seat to get into game mode.

“Man, this is perfect,” Call thought to himself. “I’m going to go out there and compete the way I know how to do, and hopefully something great happens.”

Call’s head-turning afternoon came less than 24 hours after Tommy Edman’s walk-off double barely evaded his glove in left field on Wednesday night. The play was still on his mind when he arrived at the ballpark the following morning.

“I did think about it a lot last night,” Call said. “It’s not like anybody was thinking that was a routine play, but if I catch it, we win the game — there’s no doubt about that. As a player who takes pride in being prepared, takes pride on defense, I want to make that play. Every time, I’m going to make that play. … It was a tough pill to swallow especially because I haven’t been playing every day. I want to come in and contribute in any way that I can.”

Call didn’t have to wait long for another opportunity — and he knows something about making the most of them when they are presented to him.

Call competed in only one baseball showcase in high school. He had stopped participating in travel baseball after his freshman year so he could also play football and basketball. He became a two-year letter winner in both sports, in addition to a four-year letter winner in baseball.

“Football was kind of my first love as a sport,” Call said. “I probably wasn’t going to be big enough to play football. I always wanted to be a pro athlete. In baseball, you don’t have to be huge. I felt like that was the best route to pursue.”

Wintry conditions that sometimes extended into spring didn’t lend themselves to the year-round outdoor baseball environments as warmer states. What some could have viewed as a disadvantage, Call viewed as a chance to gain an edge. The way he looked at it, having not played baseball as frequently left even more room to grow.

Call’s potential was recognized at that lone baseball showcase. He was named to Team Wisconsin and played in a tournament in Joliet, Ill., where he met a recruiter from Ball State University and received his only college offer.

“I knew I had a great arm and I was fast, bat speed or whatever,” Call said. “But I obviously was nowhere near getting drafted in high school. But I knew I could be a late bloomer if I played more baseball. The California and the Florida kids, they all played way more baseball than I did. But I had a chance to develop into more of a player, I always thought.”

The 2016 third-round MLB Draft pick is embracing his time with the Nationals after being designated for assignment by the Guardians less than a month after making his Major League debut on July 11. He has hit two home runs and has a pair of multi-RBI games in 15 appearances.

“This guy is willing to play — eager to play — every day,” said Martinez. “I thought he did a heck of a job yesterday even trying to get to that ball and trying to make that catch. Today, it was no different. I know what I’m going to get from him when he goes out there to play. He’s all in, 150 percent every day from that kid, and I can’t ask more of him.”

Just as Call’s experiences in left field at Busch Stadium came full circle from a missed catch to a home run, so did his athletic pursuits in the uniform of his sports icon.

“It’s a fun day for me to be able to rep his jersey and do an interview in it,” said Call.



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