WASHINGTON -- Before every game, each player on the Nationals goes through immense amounts of preparation. Defensive coordinator Mark Weidemaier provides players with a scouting sheet detailing the fielding game plan for the day, while hitting coach Rick Schu makes countless hours of tape on the opposing pitcher available to hitters.
But once the Nationals take the field, the demeanor changes. One can often find players laughing, talking and smiling, particularly third baseman Anthony Rendon. When Doug Fister is pitching, the right-hander almost always finishes his warmups early. That's when the infielders congregate behind the mound with their starter and have an easy-going conversation, complete with overflowing positive body language.
Manager Matt Williams said that characteristic for the team has been crucial in its success this season.
"Once you get out there, you have to let your natural ability take over and enjoy that part of the game," Williams said. "This game's about relaxation and about letting your natural ability take over. And when the first pitch is thrown, they have to do that. All the preparation is done before, and then they can just go let her fly. And that's kind of the attitude they've taken."
Daniel Popper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.