08/09/2010 2:53 PM ET
Kevin Mench: Glad to be back
Outfielder joins Nationals after two-year break from bigs
I hadn't played in the big leagues for nearly two years, so getting the call a few days ago from the Nationals has been great. I played in the Majors Leagues for seven seasons before going to Japan last year and playing in Triple-A this year. Needless to say, this feels good.
I've learned a lot over the years. So while I'm grateful for this chance, I also understand it's a job and this is business.
I'm a different person than I was when I was first making a name for myself at this level. I used to get so upset when I had a bad game and didn't get any hits. I would just throw things. Now, it doesn't bother me like it used to. I've matured in that sense, and I've figured out there's always tomorrow.
Last year my travels took me overseas. At the time, I never thought that I would get back here. After all, I didn't have a lot of opportunities. The Nationals were the only team to give me a chance to come to Spring Training. I guess I made an impression on them during the spring and, several months later, here I am.
I just wished it hadn't taken so long to get that call, but I can't control that. I knew that it would take an injury for me to get recalled. Obviously, I don't want an injury to happen, but while I'm here I'm going to try and make the most of it.
This summer, while I was playing at Triple-A, I had a lot of time to think about me and my career. Having a wife and kids changes things, too. Our family has become the most important consideration. In every baseball decision you have to think about what's best for your family. At a certain point you have to face the writing on the wall. You start thinking a return to the big leagues isn't going to happen, so you have to think ahead.
Even if I hadn't made it back, I would have looked at my time in the big leagues knowing I gave everything I had and that I was productive. Baseball gave me a new home, too. I still live in Texas where I played the first part of my career. It's nice to be there and to be recognized. It makes you feel good knowing you made an impression. It's nice to have touched some people's lives.
As for playing in Japan, the best word to describe the experience is different. I was taught to play baseball one way over here and going over there you have to learn a whole new system. That's a huge adjustment to make.
The culture and everything else in Japan was fine. But at the field I had some 50 at-bats with the big team. I didn't really have an opportunity to play. As a guy with Major League experience they expect you to have an 'S' on your chest. There's an assumption that playing there is easy for us because we've played in the Majors, but it is not easy. The expectations are too high.
My wife was only there with me for two months because she was pregnant, and I came home at the end of July. When I was there, I was playing pro baseball, but the big leagues seemed like a world away.
From 2002-08, Kevin Mench played in 702 games with the Rangers, Brewers and Blue Jays. He hit 26 and 25 home runs, respectively, in 2004 and 2005, his final seasons with the Rangers. This year he played in 87 games at Triple-A Syracuse before being recalled by the Nationals on Friday.