WASHINGTON, DC (WTKR)- As the Seattle Mariners warmed up on the field at Nationals Park on Tuesday afternoon, a familiar face graced the outfield, catching the occasional batting practice fly ball and chatting with outfield great Mike Cameron.
Chesapeake's Justin Upton returned to the region this week as the Mariners play a two-game set against the Nationals in Washington. He's back in an area where he wishes he could visit a little more often.
"It's a little tougher with kids and stuff now, but I try to get back as much as I can," the former Great Bridge star said on Tuesday.
Upton may not get back as much as he'd like to, but his legacy has never left Hampton Roads. He's the only member of the group dubbed "The Splendid Six" who remains on a Major League roster. The outfielder was the number one pick in the 2005 Major League Baseball Draft and was part of a strong core of players, including Mark Reynolds, Ryan Zimmerman, David Wright, Michael Cuddyer and his brother, BJ, to come out of the area and succeed at the big league level.
"That was a special time to be a ballplayer coming out of Chesapeake," Upton recalled. "Being able to play against and play with some of those guys, playing with Mark and playing with my brother, and playing against those guys throughout my career was a blast."
Upton has had an up and down career in the Major Leagues. He was released by the Angels a couple days prior to the start of the 2022 season and picked up by Seattle in May. The Mariners mark his sixth MLB team in 12 seasons, but he will tell you that he feels he has plenty of baseball left in the tank.
"I still feel like I can play the game," he said. "I was brought in here to kind of help bring the young guys along and I'm just kind of filling it that role and whatever I can do on the field and help the team is a plus."
At the moment, Upton finds himself in the heat of a playoff race. The Mariners enter the week having won eight consecutive games and tied for a wild card spot. Seattle has not tasted the postseason since 2001 and hold the longest active playoff drought of any team in the four major American sports.
"We're playing with some energy, we're playing the game well, we're playing the game hard so it's been fun to be a part of," Upton noted.
As veterans return for Seattle in the coming weeks, Upton will fight to keep his spot. He's hitting .140 in limited action with one home run and three RBI, but notes that he's getting more comfortable at the plate. How many more years does he have left after 2022? Time will answer that question, but the Great Bridge legend will relish every moment of playing America's pastime.
"I've enjoyed every minute of it," Upton said of his career. "I've enjoyed playing at this level for the length of time that I have. It went by fast so I'm just trying to enjoy it."
Upton told News 3 that a group of relatives from Hampton Roads, including his parents, will be in Washington to watch him play and he'll get to spend a little bit of time with them. Tuesday night's scheduled game between the Mariners and Nationals was rained out and the two teams will play a split double-header on Wednesday beginning at 12:05 PM.