Denard Span: "This Is Definitely the Best Team I've Been a Part Of"
Span could often be heard endorsing locally-made snacks or chatting with Minnesota Vikings play-by-play announcer Paul Allen, who has a show weekdays from 9 am to 12 pm.
Span joined Allen for the first time since being traded on November 29th yesterday morning around 9:30 CT. Span is training in Florida before reporting for spring training on Friday. Right off the bat, Allen asked Span what his role on the Nationals and his new teammates.
Allen: Are you batting leadoff?
Span: I would assume so.
Allen: Who do you think will bat behind you?
Span: We got a pretty deep lineup. I’m not sure how Davey (Johnson) is going to do it, but we got Bryce Harper (.270, 22 HR, 59 RBI, NL Rookie of the Year in 2012) that could probably do it. I’m not sure if they’re going to want to put him in the later part of the lineup.
We got Jayson Werth (.300, 5 HR, 31 RBI in 81 games in 2012), we got Ian Desmond (.292, 25 HR, 73 RBI in 2012). You got a handful of guys that could bat behind me.
Allen: You say "Davey.” So you and the manager, without spring training, are already on a first-name basis?
Span: All managers are like that. We’re all men here, so I call him by his first name until told otherwise. I’m not sure if he has a nickname yet.
Allen: But you never called the manager here "Ron" (Gardenhire).
Span: You know what, he doesn’t go by Ron. He goes by Gardy. You know, before I met him I would have called him Ron. You know, he never called me Denard, either.
Allen: Are you making lots of new friends?
Span: Yeah, I met most of my new teammates a couple weeks ago at NatsFest and it seemed like a real good group of guys. Real down to earth, a team that likes to have fun.
Things are going to be a lot of fun for me this year. I think we’ll be able to go out there and play loose, and just have fun.
Allen: What’s Bryce Harper like?
Span: The short time that I got to hang with him, everybody was all over him. Jayson Werth is kinda his big brother, the guys that kinda looks after him. Gives him a whole bunch of crap.
The time I was around him, I could tell he’s a funny guy. He has a real good sense of humor. You can tell that he knows he’s learning. He knows he’s a good ballplayer, but everything that I had heard about him prior to meeting him didn’t seem like any of that was true.
Ask me the same question in a few months after I get to know him better.
Allen: What do you think the National League is going to be like? Are you fearful that because you haven’t seen all these pitchers frequently, that they may have some stuff for you?
Span: You could look at it both ways. I mean, I haven’t seen them and they haven’t seen much of me. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a definite change of pace, a different style game in the National League.
I’m going to have to get used to that, but it should be fun. It will definitely be interesting. Facing a lot of new guys, going to a bunch of new stadiums for the first time, a lot of firsts going forward.
Allen: Stephen Strasberg. Jordan Zimmerman. Gio Gonzalez. Drew Storen on the back end. There’s some pretty good arms back there.
Span: Yeah, we look good. On paper, this is definitely the best team I’ve been a part of. All the way from the starting pitching to the bullpen.
Nothing against the good teams I was on when I was in Minnesota (three playoff appearances in five seasons), but I think even the years we were in the playoffs everybody overachieved at times. We were never expected to do what we did.
But here in Washington, expectations are high coming off last season and I’m definitely looking forward to being part of it.
There’s no doubt Span is going to have a huge impact on the Nationals this season. They finally have a natural center fielder. He’s not a bad leadoff hitter either, thanks to a .357 career OBP.
The Nationals hit 194 home runs last season (second in the National League) so Span’s lack of power (4 home runs in 568 plate appearances last season) shouldn’t be a problem.
But the most excited Span sounded the entire interview was when Allen mentioned that he was going to a local Twins beat-writer about his replacement, his protégé Aaron Hicks, and how his departure to Washington opened the door to Hicks’ career.
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