VIERA, Fla. — Doug Fister took his usual flight from Northern California to Orlando this week, prepared to embark on another spring training in the Grapefruit League. The only difference?
"It was basically: You pull out of Orlando airport and turn right instead of turn left," he said.
After spending parts of the last three seasons with the Tigers, who train about 45 minutes west of Orlando in Lakeland, Fister now joins the Nationals, who train roughly 45 minutes east of Orlando in Viera. The similarities don't end there. In Detroit, Fister was the quiet, unheralded member of a star-studded rotation. In Washington, he'll find himself in a very similar situation.
That suits the right-hander just fine. Fister has never been one to seek the limelight, so he's perfectly happy to blend right in behind Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann.
"That's always been my personality," he said. "I've always tried to kind of lie low and just try to put my nose to the grindstone and work. From Day 1, my father's always instilled in me not to speak about it, just go out there and work hard and let your actions show what you're all about. That's my mentality and the mentality that I try to take out to the ballpark every day."
Fister takes plenty of cues from his father, Larry, a former police officer and fire chief in their hometown of Merced, Calif., and has applied those lessons to his life in baseball.
"My dad started out as a police officer when I was young and was on the SWAT team," he said. "They'd have practice, and I'd go hang out with them. I love shooting, but being able to watch how they communicate and work together, and how they approach certain situations. And the same thing as I grew up, he switched to the fire department. Hanging around the fire department, hanging around the guys, I started to understand what they're all about.
"It's the same idea as here, if somebody brings in their boys to watch how guys prepare every day and come into the ballpark. You teach by example, and that's what they're doing."
Fister got his first taste of the camaraderie among the Nationals pitching staff Friday morning, hanging out in the clubhouse with Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and pitching coach Steve McCatty, who waited all of four seconds after meeting Fister for the first time to start hurling expletives his way.
Fister laughed it all off and looked forward to the time he'll be spending with all of these new mates over the next six weeks.
"It is a very established group, and that's one of the good things about coming here and this organization," he said. "These guys have had a lot of success already. I don't want to make any ruckus coming in. I want to come in and do my part, be a team player and help take this where we want to take it. I don't foresee any sort of problem. These guys are great guys."