Austin Kearns just turned 27 this May, but in the world of the Washington Nationals, he's a seasoned veteran. Kearns made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 2002, learning from veterans like Ken Griffey Jr. until being traded to the Nationals last season. The seventh overall Draft selection in 1998, Kearns is among the key young players around whom the Nats are building their future. He recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You're not very old, but do you feel like you're a veteran in this clubhouse?
Kearns: I do kind of feel like one of the older guys, because we have such a young team along, with some guys who aren't quite young but who haven't been around the Majors for a long time. It feels funny saying that I'm the veteran here, but I do feel like that.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How do take the lessons you learned in Cincinnati and apply them here? How do you lead?
Kearns: My biggest thing is to lead by example. I'm not a real vocal guy, by any means, so for me, leading is going out and playing the game the right way -- hard, and doing it every day. But if something's going on that needs to be addressed, you have to address it.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What was the main difference between the Reds and the Nationals, as far as the teams?
Kearns: The biggest thing about the clubhouse in Cincinnati is that everyone got along real well, everyone was always joking, laughing and hanging out. Last year, when I got here, it was weird in the clubhouse. There were little cliques everywhere. This year, I think everybody's getting along a lot more, hanging out more and having a good time.
MLBPLAYERS.com: When Cincinnati traded you last year, were you surprised, upset, or just happy to get a new start?
Kearns: I was surprised. I hadn't heard anything about a potential deal, and it was the first time I was traded. Like any player, the first time you get traded it's a surprise.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You never really got to realize your full potential with the Reds, is that something that starting over with Washington allows you to do?
Kearns: I think things happen for a reason. I'm happy here and I'm getting to play every day. It's been a lot of fun here. We've got good guys, so I'm happy with my situation.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What do you think about the makeup of the team? Going into the season, the previews and expectations weren't very positive. How do you ignore that and just focus on the game itself?
Kearns: It all starts with our manager, Manny Acta. He's been good with the team as far as leadership. The rest of us, we just have to keep things in a positive light. We have fun, we joke around a lot. We've got good kids here. I think that's the biggest thing. We have a good mix of guys who get along and that helps out in the long run.
MLBPLAYERS.com: It's been a big change going from Frank Robinson to Manny. Has it been good to get new energy at the top?
Kearns: I think so. Manny's young and energetic. He just brings a different attitude. He's upbeat and all that. I think when you're a young team that has ups and downs, you need that. Manny's been great.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Do you think the players here feel more established as they get further away from the days in Montreal?
Kearns: I think so. Every day it's getting better, guys are feeling more comfortable knowing what they've got to do. I definitely think we're headed in the right direction.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.