The first email address Jake Agnos ever created, when he was in fifth grade, included a reference to “future Nat.”
He grew up in Haymarket, Va., less than an hour away from Nationals Park, the home baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals.
But things changed when Agnos was selected out of East Carolina by the New York Yankees in the fourth round of the Major League Baseball draft last July. It became full circle Thursday night when the Yankees played at the Nationals to begin MLB’s shortened season.
“The Yankees are my team now,” Agnos said during a phone interview Friday morning. “I love to say that I saw the Nationals win their first World Series (last season), but the Yankees are my favorite team now.”
The Montreal Expos moved their franchise in 2005 to Washington, thus creating a Nationals team that has always featured Ryan Zimmerman until this year when he opted out of playing because of COVID-19 concerns. Zimmerman was born in nearby Washington (N.C.) and played youth baseball in Edenton before moving to the Virginia Beach area.
“It was like the greatest thing to my family and we used to go (to games) all the time, and I became a huge Nats fan,” said Agnos, a left-handed pitcher whose younger brother, Zach, is a redshirt freshman infielder for ECU. “They were my hometown team.”
Agnos, the American Athletic Conference’s career leader in strikeouts with 295 in three seasons, already has pitched in rookie ball and low Single-A. He went 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four appearances last year for the Staten Island Yankees of the New York-Penn League.
No minor league games this year means Agnos and plenty others are working out on their own while also having free time to watch MLB games.
The Yankees won the season’s first contest, 4-1, when it was halted during the sixth inning because of inclement weather. They took two of three from the Nats, rallying to win 3-2 on Sunday, but did not begin major leaguetheir series at Philadelphia as scheduled amid an outbreak among the Miami Marlins, who played their first weekend series in Philadelphia.
“The rainout stunk, but it was fun to watch (Max) Scherzer and (Gerrit) Cole,” Agnos said of the opening night pitching matchup. “It was really cool to finally see baseball back. ... I for sure love watching baseball and am going to try to watch as much as I can. Whatever the future holds is up in the air and not knowing my plan might change that, but I really enjoy just watching good pitching and watching guys go out there. You can take notes and learn from what they do and see what makes them successful.”
Fans are not allowed to attend.
The Nats opted to leave their seats behind home plate empty. The second game during opening night, the San Francisco Giants at the Los Angeles Dodgers, featured cardboard cutouts of fans for TV purposes.
“I kind of like the cutouts, because in the peripherals it makes you think people are actually there,” Agnos said. “It is weird and you really don’t understand how much fans influence a game until you’re actually there. I even remember last year we were playing in the Hudson Valley (New York-Penn League) and there was a guy sitting outside and I forget what noise he was making, but it was annoying. It’s just something in the background that subconsciously you think about. Fans truly do make a difference.”