Spring 2021 Magazine

Washington Nationals' Anthony Rendon playing for the Lord, quietly having MVP-caliber season

All season long, the National League MVP race has been about two guys: L.A.’s Cody Bellinger and Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich. That’s for good reason, as both are crushing the ball and having career years.

But a quiet dark horse has entered the race (at least theoretically): Anthony Rendon.

The Washington Nationals third baseman is leading the majors (through Wednesday) with a .338 batting average and 114 RBIs (tied with Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman). Those are career-high numbers for the 29-year-old, and the same goes for his home runs (32), on-base percentage (.417), slugging percentage (.636), OPS (1.053) and total bases (301). Before the season ends, he’ll likely have career-highs in doubles, hits and runs too.

Rendon’s offense has helped the Nationals take a three-game lead for the top NL wild-card slot; they’re seven games back of the Braves in the NL East. The Nats are in Atlanta to begin a four-game series Thursday night, and will host the Braves next week for three games.

Rendon has been a good player for years — he was the sixth overall pick of the 2011 draft out of Rice University — but wasn’t selected for the All-Star Game until this year, in which he’s taken his play to a new level. He placed fifth in 2014 NL MVP voting, sixth in 2017 and 11th in 2018 (when he played just 136 games)

But outside of his family, close friends and those in the Nationals organization, few people know much about Rendon, which is the way he prefers it.

“I love baseball. I love being on the field. I love competing,” Rendon said last year in a rare interview with the Washington Post. “But I’m not a fan of everything that comes with it. No offense — I’m not a fan of the interviews. I’m not a fan of people coming in the clubhouse. I’m not a fan of everyone treating you different because you play a sport. How am I different than anyone else? I’m a human being, and I have my faults, too.”

But some recent work with kids at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in Southeast Washington has helped Rendon better understand how his platform can be used.

“I think hanging out with these kids and hearing their stories and knowing I’m trying to make a difference, maybe that’s what I get out of it. I’m getting emotionally attached. That’s where I think I’ve matured. Recognizing that [opportunity] and using my platform — obviously, that’s been tough for me to accept. And at times like this [interview], it’s still uncomfortable. But hopefully as I grow older and mature, I get better at it.”

He’s not big on social media, and actually hasn’t posted on Twitter in more than two years. But one of the most recent posts was to thank those who helped raise money for his hometown of Houston following Hurricane Harvey in 2017. He said, “It is truly amazing watching the body of Christ come alive.”

Rendon’s strong season in 2019 is coming in a contract year, as he’ll become a free agent at the end of the season. When asked last year about his future in Washington, he said he can’t control everything.

“You want to plan for the future,” he told the Washington Post. “But I’ve come to learn your plans don’t always come to fruition. Obviously, with my faith, too, I don’t want to seem like it’s all about me, me, me. It takes away from what I do for Him, for the Lord.”

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