At Atholton, Kelly watched the extra drills sessions Lombardozzi grinded through after practice. Every day for four years, Kelly said, Lombardozzi stayed on the field for an extra hour or two with his father, Steve Lombardozzi Sr., who played for six seasons with the Minnesota Twins and won a World Series ring.
His father would hit Lombardozzi every variety of ground ball — backhanded stops, barehanded plays, one-hoppers, slow rollers. He took extra practice. He worked on his jumps off bases and improved his speed with endless sprints.
"If there is something to be said for hard work, he's going to find a way to get it done," Kelly said. "As good of a player as he was, he's probably not the most talented guy I ever coached. But nobody is going to outwork him.
"Don't misunderstand me, he's a very good player. He's probably the best fielder I ever had. But other guys had more raw ability or raw talent. But they didn't have his work ethic. That's the neat part of this."
He never stopped working. In left field, Lombardozzi's arm is vulnerable to runners taking an extra base. ("I'm working on that," he said.) But he has not botched a single ball hit to him, and "I don't think he's going to miss one," said Nationals third base coach Bo Porter, who instructs outfielders.
"You know that he's going to do everything in his power to be prepared to play," Porter said. "I never had any concerns about him. He's been great. Some people just have a feel for the game. He understands situations."
Before this season, Lombardozzi dropped by Atholton High to chat with his old coach, who retired last year. He told Kelly if he ever needed any tickets, he would take care of him. Kelly beamed with pride, and with the satisfaction that there is something to be said for hard work.