PHILIPSBURG — As a kid growing up, many dream of playing professional sports. For those out on the baseball diamond, reaching Major League Baseball and winning a World Series is the ultimate goal. Only a select few ever get to do this out of all that have stepped into the batter’s box and put on a glove – from Little League to high school to college.
Philipsburg native and first baseman Matt Adams, 31, is one of those “select few” and in his eighth year in MLB, he reached the World Series for a second time this year. But unlike his visit with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013, Adams became a World Series Champion with the Washington Nationals this year, defeating the Houston Astros in a series that saw the Nationals rally late in Game 7 and gave Washington, D.C., its first baseball title since the Washington Senators won the World Series back in 1924.
“I think from day one in spring training, I think everybody knew we had a special group of guys,” Adams said. “Everybody knows we didn’t start out the greatest – we were 12 games under .500 going into the last week of May.”
But after May, the Nationals rallied in a big way and finished the regular season with a 93-69 record. From there they defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card game, the Los Angeles Dodgers in the divisional round, the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS and then the Houston Astros in the World Series.
“We always talked about in spring training, the philosophy of family,” Adams said. “I think we kind of bought into that after the rough start and really buckled down and realized we had a great group of guys ... From that day on, we suited up and went to battle with our brothers and stepped out on that baseball field believing we could win those games.”
One of the big accomplishments during the season was Adams reaching his 100th career home run, as he finished up the season with 20 home runs and 56 runs batted in 310 at bats.
“Reaching my 100th career homer was pretty cool,” Adams said.
But most that play professional sports will tell you that winning is the number one priority. That is also the case with Adams, as he said it made this year that much more special.
“My main goal in putting on a baseball uniform and going out and playing is to play for a championship,” Adams said. “To really step back and realize what this team did this year, knowing the memorable run that we had and the ups and downs of the season, it was more about the team this year than anything personal. I had a blast going onto the field each and every day. I found the joy and the love of the game again this year and that was huge for me. To top it all off, we brought the trophy back to D.C. and that was pretty cool ... To see how the city rallied behind us was very, very cool.”
Adams said about three years ago, he made a big offseason push to get in better shape and does so by going through three different periods: a corrective phase, a strength/building phase and then sports-specific training that includes “drills and workouts based on the movements I’ll be doing throughout the season.
“I have a specific program that I follow now and that’s the best thing that I’ve done for my career,” Adams said. “This is my fourth off-season doing it and I just turned 31 in August and I feel way younger now than what I did when I was 25.”
This year, however, Adams goes into the offseason without a team, as the Nationals declined his mutual option for the 2020 season, thus making him a free agent.
“Where I’m going, who I’m going with, that’s (too early) to tell,” Adams said. “I try not to let that creep into my head and worry about that. I’ve got two great agents that I respect and trust the heck out of that they’re going to try and find me a home that’s the best fit for me and my career. I can go to bed at night knowing I’ve got them behind me and just really focus on my off-season program ... Now that I’m back in St. Louis, I can really just focus on putting my head down and busting my butt and to get ready for next year.”
The former Philipsburg-Osceola and Slippery Rock standout said he makes it a point to get home for various holidays and was actually able to make it back to the area recently.
“This year I came home, we had an off day before the World Series, I came home, saw my family and took my dad to the Penn State/Michigan game,” Adams said.
One thing that Adams continues to appreciate is the support he’s had from those in Philipsburg and the surrounding areas.
“I’ve always known that I wanted to play baseball from such a young age,” Adams said. “Obviously my mom, my dad and my family were there. But my close friends and the people of Philipsburg, it’s been cool to see – from when I first got drafted to see all of the support in the community. Then when I got called up, Fullington (Buses) was bringing bus loads of people down to Pittsburgh. Then anywhere close that they can get to, it’s very, very cool to see the community rally not just myself, but with (fellow Philipsburg native and former NFL long snapper Jon) Condo and his football career; it’s cool when you have guys that come out of a small area.”
Adams said he hopes that with both he and Condo, it allows children growing up to set goals high knowing they can accomplish things if they put their minds to it.
“Don’t take no for an answer and keep working,” Adams said. “Keep having that dream in the back of your head ... Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. That’s the message I want to send out – no matter where you come from – whether it’s a small town like Philipsburg or a big city ... The mind is powerful and if you have a dream, keep working hard.”