Ian Desmond tosses batting gloves to fan who sent him 12-pack of Big League Chew


(Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

In early April, several media outlets reported about Ian Desmond’s efforts to give up smokeless tobacco. Here was Kilgore’s verison, from April 6:

As the Washington Nationals fought a confluence of forces Sunday morning, Ian Desmond waged a more personal battle. Over the winter, he stopped using smokeless tobacco, and he vowed this season he would quit using the substance known in baseball clubhouses as “dip.” It had always acted as a salve after losses, and the Atlanta Braves had beaten the Nationals the past two days.

He sent his mother, Pattie Paradise, a text message from inside the clubhouse. “I’m having a hard time,” he wrote. Having pleaded with him to stop for years, Paradise sent back, “You can do it.”

Like many Nats fans, Carol Leigh Allen read about Desmond’s struggle, and sympathized.

“I thought ‘Well gee, if he’s having a tough time and he still wants to dip into something that’s not harmful, why not Big League Chew?” she told me this week. “I don’t even know if he likes the stuff. I just wanted to help him in his journey trying to give up chew.”

So Allen — a 54-year old partial season-ticket holder from northern Virginia — went on Amazon.com, which is probably the best Web site out there if you ever want to buy anything at all on the internet, because it’s really great and awesome. She priced out some Big League Chew options, found a 12-pack, looked up the address of Nats Park, and then mailed the gum to Desmond, at his 1500 South Capitol Street office.

She had no idea whether the gum would ever reach its target, nor if Desmond would use it, but she tweeted the shortstop to let him know.

A few hours after she sent that tweet, Desmond had a message of his own.

So that was that. A gift had been given, and the recipient had received it. And in fact, a couple months later, Stephen Strasburg announced that he was also trying to give up smokeless tobacco, and Allen sent him a 12-pack of Big League Chew of his own. The episode seemed to be over.

Anyhow, Allen went to one of the Nats games in Baltimore earlier this month, as she typically does. The tickets she bought were owned by a Baltimore season ticket holder, and they allowed her earlier access into Camden Yards. So she headed down to the visitor’s dugout and took photos of Jayson Werth and Mike Rizzo, Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler, and even Thomas Boswell. Desmond passed in front of the dugout and stopped to sign autographs for some kids; Allen asked if he needed any more Big League Chew.

“No, we’re stocked up good,” Desmond said.

Then he stopped and seemed to think for a second, Allen said.

“Was that you?” Desmond asked.

“Yeah, that was me,” Allen said.

Desmond yelled again to get her attention, said “I really appreciate it,” and tossed her his batting gloves.

“Then he went into the dugout and I just kind of stared after him,” Allen told me. “My friend said ‘Cloud nine?’ I said ‘I’m so above that right now.’ ”

Later, Allen — who wrote about her experience at WNFF.com — ran into Mike Rizzo, while still at the stadium. She showed him the batting gloves and said “Mr. Rizzo, you’ve got to sign this guy long-term.”

Allen had always liked Desmond — she cited the stories she’d heard about him interacting with fans, his work to raise money for neurofibromatosis research, his involvement with the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.

“And this just kind of validates why I always liked him,” she said. “Someone turned to me after I caught the gloves and said ‘Now you’ve got to get him to autograph them,’ and I’m like no.That wasn’t why I bought him the gum. I just wanted him to know that it was me, and to ask if he needed any more. You want to help him along the way, and that was my full intention.”

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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