NatsFest 2013: Sights and sounds
For Denard Span, getting traded to the Washington Nationals was quite the coincidence, perhaps an act of fate. He was returning to the city he was born in, but a town he had spent little time in since. He needed to get in touch with his roots and learn about his birthplace.
Luckily for Span, his new employer was a professional baseball team and could provide him the grandest of tours. Span saw a Wizards game, took a White House tour, saw Union Station and Georgetown, and even ate at Ben’s Chili Bowl. He feels like he has a pretty good feel for the city and, after NatsFest on Saturday, his new fans as well.
“I’m in the nation’s capital man, that’s awesome,” he said. “I never thought I would be coming back here to play after being born here.”
“It seems like the fans are already greeting me with love even though they haven’t seen me play yet, definitely getting me excited to go down there to Spring Training.”
Span is still getting used to being on a new team after being in the Minnesota Twins’ organization since being drafted in 2002. He met many of his teammates for the first time on Saturday after talking to a few only by text message.
“It’s just a new start for me and I’m excited for it. It’s been a whirlwind this offseason for me with getting traded but honestly I’m ready for this new chapter in my life.”
Despite switching teams, Span will be able to keep his number ‘2’ that he wore with the Twins. Outfielder Roger Bernadina was already planning to change his jersey to ‘33’ so Span didn’t have to do any convincing. Sometimes players have to sweeten the pot with gifts or a Rolex watch for instance.
“I don’t have Rolex money so he wasn’t getting no Rolex, maybe he would have got a Fossil or something like that,” he said. “Or a pair of Nikes or something.”
Span is ready to get started on the field and already has plans off the field as well. He looks forward to being active in the Washington community with several specific causes.
For one, he wants to help those in single-parent homes as he himself can relate, his mother raised him on her own. Span said he was involved in the cause in Minnesota with an organization called the Jeremiah Fund that helped single mothers get educations and employment.
“I told myself if I ever got a chance to help people it would be single mothers so I will have to find an organization here in Washington and do whatever I can to help them out,” he said.
Span also looks at D.C. as an opportunity to reach out to those in the inner city neighborhoods as an African-American athlete and hopes to spread the game of baseball in the Washington area.
“I’ve heard, what’s the term they give it, ‘Chocolate City?’ I looked at the roster and I was like, ‘man, I’m the only African-American on the team,’ I guess it’s up to me to bring a little chocolate to the team and to the city.”
“I look forward to it. In the game there’s been a lot of past history with the players of African-American descent and I think African-Americans need to get back into the game. I’m hoping I can be a good spokesperson and do whatever I can in the community and the city and do a good job.”
Span will bring plus defense in center field and the ability to lead off to the Nationals, something general manager Mike Rizzo said he had been seeking for years. On the field Span may be the perfect fit, and for player and city it could be as well.