In 2011, Turner graduated from Park Vista High School in Lake Worth, Florida. His senior year, he hit .478 with nine doubles, five triples, one home run, 16 RBIs, 43 runs scored, and 25 steals in 28 attempts.
In 2011, Trea was drafted by the Pirates in the 20th round, but he chose to accept a baseball scholarship to North Carolina State. He turned down the Pirates' offer of $500,000 and majored in chemical engineering in college.
- Turner developed late physically. But one good aspect was that he came tocollege with a sharpened baseball mind. He couldn’t out-muscle or outrun his peers as a kid, so he had to find other ways to make himself a player. His instincts and feel for the game stand out on the field and off it, where his intelligent, thoughtful answers to questions made him a favorite in postgame press conferences.
“When I was younger, I was always the smallest kid—weak,” Turner said. “I was kind of fast but probably not even the fastest when I was younger, too, and I had to kind of outsmart people and do everything I could to just compete with kids that were bigger and stronger than me. I think that’s helped me.”
"I was kind of a smaller guy in high school and needed to go to college, put some weight on, and mature as a player,” the 6-foot-1, 171-pound Turner said.
June 2014: Trea was the Padres first round pick in the draft, the 13th player taken overall. He signed quickly with San Diego for a $2.9 million bonus, via scout Tyler Stubblefield.
As a freshman in 2012, he terrorized pitchers and catchers, succeeding on his first 29 steal attempts and becoming the first freshman to lead NCAA Division I in swipes (57 in 61 tries). He played for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team in 2012-13.
In 2013, he was hampered by an ankle injury but still managed to help the Wolfpack to the College World Series.
In 2014, Turner stole 26 bases in 30 attempts while hitting .321/.418/.516. He totaled 14 home runs the last two seasons, leading N.C. State in the category each year.
Along the way, he fed off criticism about his size and his game.
“A lot of people have doubted me throughout my life, and I’ve used that as motivation to keep proving people wrong,” he said. "I know it’s only going to get harder and probably more people saying negative things about me,” he said, “but that’s fine. That’s how it is—and I embrace that and I accept the challenge.”
Turner needs to add strength to his wiry frame.
He tends to wear his emotions on his sleeve.
May 2014: Turner and Carlos Rodon became the first three-time All-Americans in NC State Wolfpack baseball history.
In 2015, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Turner as the second-best prospect in the Padres organization (even though he'd already been traded to the Nationals).
In 2016, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Turner as the second-best prospect (behind only P Lucas Giolito) in the Nationals organization.
At NC State, Turner won the Brooks Wallace Award, recognizing him as the top shortstop in the country.
In 2015, Turner was invited to play in the Futures Game were he hit a double and triple during the game.
Trea highly recommends the 2015 "Straight Outta Compton" film, though his viewing differed greatly from the average viewer's.
Roughly 24 hours after his movie-watching experience was interrupted with a phone call breaking the news that he'd been called up to the Major Leagues, Turner made his big league debut with the Nationals.
"Every debut is good, I would like to say," Turner said. "You can't necessarily have a bad debut, no matter how you play, results, whatever. It was just fun to be out there and I'm excited to go back out there tomorrow."
Entering the game in the seventh inning, the fans at Nationals Park gave Turner the first of several warm ovations.
"It's hard for me not to pay attention to a lot of that," he said. "I can hear it, and I see stuff out of the corner of my eyes all the time. It was awesome. It was very cool for me to experience that from the fans." (J Emert - MLB.com - August 22, 2015)
They used to tell Trea Turner he wouldn’t make the junior varsity team, or later the varsity team at Park Vista High. They said he couldn’t make his travel ball team, and indeed, he was cut once from the team.
They said he’d never get a college scholarship, and then they said it wouldn’t be to an Atlantic Coast Conference school, which was his goal. Indeed, Turner and his family set a date for accepting Florida Atlantic’s early, substantial offer. North Carolina State assistant coach Chris Hart called on that morning, and Turner gave FAU coach John McCormick the bad news later in the day.
They said he wouldn’t get drafted, and not only was Turner drafted, but the Pirates, keyed by then-area scout Rolando Pino, kept upping their offer to convince the 20th round pick in 2011 to sign. But he kept his N.C. State commitment, and became—for me at least—the greatest position player in Wolfpack history, leading the 2013 club, along with roommates Carlos Rodon and Brett Austin, to the College World Series.
Now they say he can’t play shortstop in pro ball, and in the big leagues. And yet here Turner is, now a member of the Washington Nationals organization, on the cusp of the Majors in Triple-A and playing in the All-Star Futures Game at Great American Ball Park.
Who “they” are changes at every level. But Turner draws fuel from the doubters at every level. He loves to prove them wrong, and to keep proving them wrong.
“I get a little joy out of that,” he said with a smile before the Futures Game. “I probably hear the negative stuff more than I hear the positive stuff. I have heard it for so long, I’ve been able to use it as motivation.” (John Manuel - Baseball America - 7/31/15)
Late in 2016 Spring Training, the question of whether Trea should open the season in Syracuse or the Nation's Capitol. The team sent him to Double-A.
When Turner joined his new teammates with Triple-A Syracuse (after 10 games with the Nats' Double-A affiliate in Harrisburg), Chiefs manager Billy Gardner recalled meeting him at the baggage claim area at the airport. This was his sixth different team in 13 months.
"Very pleasant, very respectful-type kid," Gardner said. "Very smart. Very articulate. After getting to talk to him a little bit and getting to know him more, you really get to know what a good teammate he is."
Turner's performance through all of the weirdness was seamless: He posted a .322 average for the Padres' Double-A affiliate in the first 58 games of 2015, a .359 average in Harrisburg and a .314 average in 48 games for Syracuse. He was summoned to the big leagues in August to serve as an extra player for the Nationals.
"Different teammates, different cities, he handled it so well it was even surprising to me," said Gardner. "He had this ability to move on from any adversity. If you can't move on from failure—and he didn't have a lot of failure, but he had some—you're going to have a tough time in this game. But he dealt with it. He's high character."
In time, he figures to be a high achiever, whenever he takes the Washington shortstop job as his own. (Buster Olney - ESPN.com - 3/12/2016)
The Nationals found out Trea has a work ethic that's second to none. Turner is one of the first players to arrive at the ballpark and is quickly in the cage. No wonder he is one of the best hitters in the system. In his short time in the organization, Turner hit a combined .321 with three home runs and 19 RBIs for Double-A Harrisburg and Syracuse in 2015.
"It's a matter of getting playing time and getting experience," Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu said. "He definitely has all the tools. The ball comes off his bat."
But what impressed Nationals manager Dusty Baker the most in Spring Training 2016 was Turner's speed. Numerous times, Turner hit routine ground balls to infielders and beat them out for base hits or made the infielders rush their throws for errors while trying to make the play at first base.
"The No. 1 thing is his speed, and speed kills. That's something the game doesn't have much of," Baker said. "When you have speed, it makes [the opponent] make mistakes he wouldn't normally make." (Ladson - MLB.com - 3/29/16)
September 22, 2016: Trea showed off in front of family members, hitting a blistering home run in an 8-3 victory over the Marlins. Turner—who is from Lake Worth, Fla., about 60 miles from Miami—had a lot of family and friends visit Marlins Park to watch him play. He was hitless in the first two games of the three-game series, and it didn't help that he was pulling off the ball.
But in his fourth at-bat, against righthander Austin Brice, Turner smashed a homer to left field that gave Washington a 6-0 lead. It was Turner's 12th home run in 63 games, the sixth most by a Nationals rookie. (Ladson - MLB.com)
You might not know: Turner has played baseball in Japan, The Netherlands, and Cuba, including at Cuba's Estadio Latinoamericano while on the Collegiate National Team
"We played them in a five-game series, and we played against Jose Abreu, Rusney Castillo and Raisel Iglesias, played against Yasmany Tomas. That stadium is pretty cool, pretty neat," he said.
In 2013, N.C. State made the College World Series for the first time in 45 years. Thanks to Turner at the top of the order and his teammate, now-White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon, at the top of the rotation.
Rodon was drafted No. 3 overall by Chicago a year later, 10 picks ahead of Turner. He recently tied an AL record by striking out the first seven batters he faced in his start on Sept. 30, 2016.
"Whenever you see a guy like Trea Turner step into the box, sometimes you might be doing something like getting water or going to the bathroom. But if I have to go to the bathroom, I'm not going for that at-bat," Rodon told the Fayetteville Observer before the 2012 College World Series. "I'm gonna stay and watch because it's going to be something special."
Dec 23, 2016: Helping to continue a tradition that dates to the early days of MLB.com, Turner took a few minutes to chat about his offseason and to share some holiday memories.
MLB.com: How does the offseason change now that you're heading into the season as a big leaguer? Turner: It's funny, I've always wanted to work crazy hard. You just start doing everything at the gym for hours and hours, and I still do that, but I think my preparation has become a lot smarter. I think last year, when I got called up, I figured out what I wanted to do hitting-wise and now I feel like I don't have to hit all offseason -- I can wait, give myself some time off and then work on the few things that I want. The difference, I think, is being wiser and smarter and knowing how to prepare a little bit better.
MLB.com: Where do you train? Turner: I do most of it in Raleigh, N.C., back at N.C. State. That's where I mostly work out, but I go home for the holidays and whatnot.
MLB.com: What Christmas traditions did you guys have in the Turner household? Turner: We play Amazing Race on New Year's Eve. My mom or aunt makes a whole list of things that we have to find, and we split up into teams. Sometimes it's like a Chinese takeout menu or take a picture with a cop, so on New Year's Eve we're running around all over the place going into restaurants and different things. People think we're crazy, but it's pretty fun.
MLB.com: When did this tradition start?Turner: I'd probably say six, seven, eight years ago, somewhere in there, long time.
MLB.com: What's your favorite Christmas movie? Turner: The Grinch or Home Alone. (J Collier - MLB.com - Dec 23, 2016)
Trea Turner knows who to thank for getting him to this point.Prior to Mother's Day, the Nationals' shortstop spoke glowingly about his mom's drive and her role in shaping Trea into the man and talented baseball player he is today.
"She was the hardest on me. She was always perfect as a kid and no one can ever talk crap to her because she was always perfect. She's good at board games. She's competitive and she's smart, so she was the one that kind of [pushed] me as a kid. I think that helped me a lot because I try to do everything perfect now, in practice and whatever it is and I get mad at myself when I don't execute or don't do what I want to, so I think that mentality came from her. And I think that's probably helped me the most."It's cool to wear [pink gear] and represent all the moms out there in general. My mom's always asking me for hits and stolen bases and home runs and different things on Mother's Day and her birthday. (Jamal Collier- MLB.com.-May 13, 2017)
During his freshman year at North Carolina State University, Turner stole a school-record 57 bases while only being caught four times. But Wolfpack head coach Elliott Avent is convinced that, had Turner been a little more selfish, he could have stolen 75 or 80.
"In the way it was an insult for a player to strike out in the old days, it became that way for Trea when he got thrown out stealing bases," Avent says. "He didn't steal if he didn't think he was going to be safe or when the game was already decided. He wouldn't do it just for show."
Turner, however, didn't arrive at N.C. State thinking he'd become their new "Man of Steal." In fact, he didn't know just how much speed could impact a ballgame until Avent and his assistants recognized his speed and taught him the rapidly-disappearing art of stealing a base. While Turner was always fast, he was also one of the smallest players at Park Vista Community High School in Boynton Beach, Fla.; as a 5-foot-4 freshman, he was cut by the school's travel team. "They just look for the biggest, strongest, fastest kids and hope they turn into good players," Turner says. "I was a decent baseball player, but I was always pretty undersized."
For that reason, Turner got only two college scholarship offers, from nearby Florida Atlantic University and from N.C. State. Turner, who had always dreamed of playing for a big school in the ACC or SEC, opted to join the Wolfpack.
"At that point, I didn't know how my speed would play into the game," Turner says. "I really learned how to steal bases from my coaches my freshman year at N.C. State."
That year, Turner's 57 steals were more than the team totals of 158 Division I teams. He went on to steal 30 bases in 2013 and 26 in 2014 for a grand total of 113 in three seasons.
While Turner's eyes were being opened to what speed could do, he was also making Avent remember." A stolen base isn't as big a part of the game as it used to be and I went along with that and became very offensive-minded," Avent says. "I was more about hitting than I was about stolen bases. But Trea changed my mind on that, because he was such a disruptive force."
Turner's batting average was over.320 in each of his three seasons at N.C. State, including .368 in 2013. He has a .304 average in his three seasons in Washington. "I have the speed," Turner says. "People said, 'Just hit the ball on the ground, slap the ball, just get on base.' But I wanted to be able to hit home runs. I wanted to be able to bunt, steal bases, play defense. I never wanted to be a one-dimensional player."
Avent tells another story that gives some insight into Turner's mentality as a baseball player. During Turner's junior year, he was riding shotgun as Avent was giving him a lift to an awards banquet. Turner was tasked with manning the GPS and relaying the directions to Avent. As they were chatting, Avent mentioned an article that had recently been written about Turner, that may have mentioned his arm not being up to par.
"Trea got so mad reading it on his phone that he stopped paying attention to the directions and we missed our exit," Avent recalls. "But once someone wrote something bad about his arm, Trea took a lot of pride in making sure his arm was as strong as anybody's. He would work any amount of hours. He is a perfectionist."
Avent says "perfectionist." Turner says "competitor." But, Turner says, maybe "perfectionist" and "competitor" go hand in hand, and likely all of it came from being largely underestimated in his formative years.
"I think being small was how I learned the game," he says. "Everyone was bigger and stronger than me, so I had to outsmart people. I had to think more deeply to compete with the kids who were more talented than I was. I think that really helped me learn the game, helped me make certain plays or decisions throughout a game which now, at this level, is very important."
At the big league level, Turner has proved his versatility, playing both shortstop and second base and, in 2016, center field. He never once played that position in college, but doing so showcased both his speed and smarts.Also consider this: Turner's on-base-plus-slugging percentage is 70 points higher than Gordon's and 155 points higher than Hamilton's. Which means, while Nats fans may be basking in the return of Bryce Harper and hanging on every Stephen Strasburg fastball, it is Turner who is their not-so-secret weapon.
"We all know that Trea is a player, and that he's an impact player," manager Dusty Baker said. "When he's out there, we feel better, and the pitcher and the other team feels worse." (Lindsay Berra-MLB,com-Oct.4, 2017)
June 2014: Trea was the first college player to sign an above-slot bonus in that year's draft. Turner got $2.9 million, when the slot for the No. 13 overall pick was $2,723,300.
December 18, 2014: In a giant 11-player/3-team trade, the Padres received OF Wil Myers, C Ryan Hanigan, RHP Gerardo Reyes, and LHP Jose Castillo—all from the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays received OF Steven Souza and LHP Travis Ott from the Nationals, and C Rene Rivera, 1B Jake Bauers, and RHP Burch Smith from the Padres. The Nationals received two players from the Padres: RHP Joe Ross and Turner (who was the player to be named in June 2015).
So, Turner was caught up in the so-called Pete Incaviglia Rule, instituted 29 years ago, forbidding a team to trade a drafted player until one year after he signs his first professional contract. Supporters of efforts to nullify that rule feel the Turner situation could be the key to winning their battle.
Trea technically belongs to the Padres, so he will go to spring training with the Padres in Peoria, Ariz., not with the Nationals in Viera, Fla. And he will open the minor league season with the Padres, not being able to officially join the Nationals until June 13, the anniversary of when he signed his contract. (Tracy Ringolsby - Baseball America - January 2015)
On June 13, 2015, Turner finally headed to the Nationals organization.