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Nationals' Denard Span Connects With Community as He Settles Into Life in D.C.

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Span, left, was traded to Washington in November. Since then, he’s been working to get to know his Nationals teammates and his new city. Span said he isn’t too interested in politics, but wouldn’t turn down a tour of the White House or Capitol.

“Families were very appreciative,” he said of the first Span’s Fans outing held at Nationals Park on April 22, at a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. “It’s a good feeling when you can put smiles on other people’s faces. Just made their day. In the big scheme of things, it’s a small donation. For the benefit and what I get out of it, it’s worth it.”

While in Minnesota, Span won the Carl R. Pohlad Community Service Award. He was particularly involved with Jeremiah Program, a nonprofit designed to help single mothers. Span credits much of his success in life to the close relationship he has with his family, particularly his mother, Wanda Wilson, whom he speaks with every day and who raised him as a single parent. He’s glad that being part of the National League East means that his family in Florida will be able to see more of his games with shorter travel distances.

“My goal is reach as many people as I can, however I can, whether with a positive word or testimony. I think I was put here to touch as many people as I possibly can,” Span said.

“We were aware of his community activity in Minnesota, so when he got here to the Nationals, we talked to him in spring training about getting to know the Washington, D.C., community better and let them get to know him,” said Shawn Bertani, the senior director of community relations for the Washington Nationals.

Bertani credits the success of Span’s Fans to having a player like Span, who feels strongly about helping others. “If a guy is doing something that resonates with him, he is going to be fully invested,” she said.

Nationals First Base and Outfield Coach Tony Tarasco agreed that the community work is part of what makes Span who he is. “It goes into his total package, the underlying character about himself. He is a consistent and steady person, period. With that, everything else comes together.”

Big Win for Washington

After last season’s Cinderella-esque playoff run, followed by a crash-and-burn ending against the Cardinals, the Nationals wanted to add depth to the lineup and strength to the outfield.

Offensively, the team needed to increase its on-base percentage at the top of the batting order. Without a prototypical leadoff hitter, batters such as Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper were clearing empty bases. Defensively, the Nats wanted a center fielder so the young and still-growing Harper could move to a corner slot.

And so the Nationals found Span, whom they’d been trying to lure from the Twins for years. Span was traded for one of the Nationals’ top pitching prospects, Alex Meyer. And while his speed and nifty catches have saved the Nationals in several close games, he doesn’t garner the national attention of pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg or hitting prodigy Harper.

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