Womack proud to be 'still standing'

Womack proud to be 'still standing'

Tony Womack has been a versatile player during his 13 years in the big leagues. When he became a regular with the Pirates in 1997, Womack was their starting second baseman. A few years later, Womack was the everyday right fielder with the D-backs before switching to shortstop and helping them during their World Series title run in 2001.

With the Cardinals in 2004, Womack was back at second base and had his best season, hitting a career-high .307 under the tutelage of hitting coach Mitchell Page, who is now in the same capacity with the Nationals.

Versatility is the reason the Nationals signed Womack, 37, to a Minor League deal in January. If he makes the club, Womack will get $600,000. He is battling Ronnie Belliard, D'Angelo Jimenez, Jose Macias and Josh Wilson to be one of the backup infielders.

In his first exhibition game of the season on Friday, Womack replaced second baseman Felipe Lopez in the fourth inning. Womack was hit by a pitch in the sixth and came out of the game in the top of the ninth inning, when manager Manny Acta had Jesus Flores pinch-hit for Womack.

MLB.com caught up with Womack on Friday morning at Space Coast Stadium to talk about playing for the Nationals and his 13 years in the big leagues.

MLB.com: Everybody knows the relationship between you and Page. What makes that relationship so special?

Womack: We are on the same page. He made me more successful than I ever was before. There is this beautiful bond him and I have.

MLB.com: It was the only year you hit .300 or better. Why were you able to do it in St. Louis?

Womack: It's a special bond we have. We turned it up a notch. I'm a career .273 hitter, so I'm not complaining about anything. Batting .300 comes and goes. Some people can do it year in and year out. I'm a .273 hitter, so I keep pushing. So we all have career years. It just so happens I turned it up a notch and it went from there.

MLB.com: After so many years as a starter, you have been coming off the bench the last year and a half. What adjustment did you have to make? How much did it bother you?

Womack: Baseball is baseball. There comes a point in your career people don't think you can play every day, but I prove them wrong. If they want me off the bench, they want me off the bench, and when I start, I start. I know I can still play. I still get my work in, I prepare myself. The rest takes care of itself.

MLB.com: Why do you think you can still start?

Womack: I've been doing it all of my career. If you don't believe in you, no one will.

MLB.com: It sounds like throughout your career, you had a lot to prove. Do you feel you have something to prove now?

Womack: Every day. I have to prove the naysayers wrong every year. It never gets to me. I proved to myself that I can still play. That's all that matters. It's not about what they say. I do it for me. I don't do it for anybody else, but for me and my family.

There are still doubters now. I don't know why. It's not for me to worry about. I was told that I would never play in the big leagues and never be a shortstop -- all that negative stuff. I'm still standing. That's the only thing that matters to me. I can't control what people think and write about me. What I control is me -- how I prepare myself and how I play.

MLB.com: Before the interview started and during the interview, you keep mentioning your family. What do they mean to you?

Womack: My family is everything. You see, I can go 0-for-4 and my family couldn't care less. Only baseball people are worried about 0-for-4s and all that stuff. When I go home, I'm a family man. Baseball does not exist.

MLB.com: When you were going through your tough times as a reserve ...

Womack: It was only tough because I wasn't told I was a reserve. I was told I had a chance to win a job and then things changed and no one told me so. Tell me what's going on. Tell the truth. That's all.

MLB.com: Did this happen with the Yankees and the Reds?

Womack: I'm not even going to go there. In order for me to be blessed, I have to bless everything. To sit there and worry about what happened to me -- you know, as long as I know I didn't anything wrong, then I'm OK with it. That's in the past. I have to move [forward]. It's more important that I look forward. What ever is behind you, catches up with you. It's over and done with.

MLB.com: You're in a battle for a position with the Nationals. How do you feel about it?

Womack: I've been battling all of my career. This is no different. Knock on wood, I still come out on top.

MLB.com: The Nationals signed Ronnie Belliard ...

Womack: It doesn't mean anything to me. He is a good guy. I can't control who they sign. I can't control who they bring in. All I can control is what I did between the white lines. I don't make the decisions. What I'm going to do is bust my butt and try to make it hard [on them to decide].

You know, this is not the only team to play for. You see, that's the mentality I have. I still have to prepare myself. If I don't play here, I'll go somewhere else and play. The thing is, I can still play. That's all that matters. That's all I believe in. I have faith in me, I have faith in the man upstairs. He is never going to put me in a situation where I can't be successful.

MLB.com: We saw you play in an intrasquad game recently. You can run and bunt. What else can you do?

Womack: I can do the things I did before. All I need is a chance. You give a brother a chance, I'll take advantage of my opportunities. Like I said, if they don't want me on this team and I'm not a fit ... Spring Training is a long season. People get hurt. I can step in. Next thing you know, I can help someone back to the championship.

Believe me, I have had one [heck] of a career. I have no complaints. I've proven myself day in and day out. I don't have a problem proving myself again. That's what I've been doing my whole career, so welcome to my world.

MLB.com: In the two times I've talked to you this spring, I feel that you are leery of the media. If so, why?

Womack: No, I'm not leery. When people say do you have a minute, I ask, "About what?" I'm not going to get into a conversation that has nothing to do with me. I don't want to talk about steroids or all this other stuff that goes on. Why say, "Yes," when I put myself in a situation that I can't get out of? If you guys think it's like that, that's on you. That's just me. I've been that way my whole career.

I enjoy this game. I don't like side attractions. You guys ask questions that you have to ask. You just asked about Belliard. That's not upsetting me. I don't like to get into that stuff because I don't want to be one of those guys that is misquoted. It's not like I don't like the media. I just don't want to be put in a situation where I'm the bad guy. You have to do your job. I have to do mine. I'm not a media guy. Never have been and never will be. I have nothing against you.

MLB.com: What is the biggest highlight of your career?

Womack: Being in the big leagues is my highlight. All the accolades come because you get a chance to do it. I've made it, been successful at it.

MLB.com: You have said that you have beaten the naysayers. How much of a role your dad, Thomas, played in making you believe in yourself?

Womack: My dad is my best friend. My dad never questioned anything. He told me to put forth in your effort and go from there. That's all I did.

I don't know what's going to happen with the Nationals. I don't think they know. I don't have any animosity toward nothing. I may not be vocal, but I get my work in because I still enjoy playing this game. Do I expect anything? No. When you expect it, you don't get it. That's why, I guess, I've had a career. I wasn't expected to be here. All the naysayers said, 'He doesn't have a high on-base percentage. He can't win a world championship being a shortstop.' I did. Now what you are going to say?

I have somebody that's higher than anybody in this room who can make decisions. I have a person who is on my side, and with God on my side, I have belief. If I'm not on this team because of numbers or they don't want me on this team, that's all fine and dandy, but I will go somewhere and make myself successful.

Negativity is the easiest thing to sell. It's so hard to give people praise. It's so hard for people to acknowledge what you have done because they have that mind set where you get a certain age in baseball you can't do this, you can't do that.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.