Not all the bonds between Philadelphia and Washington are contentious. Over the winter, both teams traded for young center fielders to place at the top of their lineups, pulling from a team with a surplus of them, the Minnesota Twins. The Nationals shipped away their best pitching prospect for Denard Span, and a week later the Phillies sent two pitchers to Minnesota for their other athletic outfielder, Ben Revere.
The two players developed a tight bond playing alongside each other in the Twins outfield. Span, now 29, took the younger Revere, 24, under his wing after he was drafted in 2007, and both relied on each other for tips on improving their game. “He really helped me become the person I am today,” Revere said.
Wednesday, the two players embraced before a spring training game for the first time since 2010 in differing uniforms. And because of a twist of fate, and both teams’ needs, they wound up in the same division on the rosters of fierce rivals.
When Span was traded to Washington in late November, Revere called to wish him luck. Span, who has patrolled center field every day for the Twins since 2009, thought the position would finally belong to his friend Revere. A week later, Span was calling Revere to congratulate him for landing with a winning team. (“I got traded here and he said, ‘It’s going to be war now. Big brother versus little brother,’” Revere said.) The outfield duo was separated but couldn’t quite escape each other.
“We’re going to winning teams and that’s probably what’s best for us,” Span said. “We’re going to the bigger stage and I think it’s going to be good for both of us.”
As teammates, the leaned on each other’s expertise. Span, a patient hitter at the plate, would call Revere when he struggled in the minors to offer encouragement or urge him to be more selective when batting. Revere, a better base stealer, would give Span tips on how to improve on the base paths. That, however, stops now.
“Off the field, we’re still going to be good friends and buddies,” Revere said. “On the field, we’re going to be enemies. We both and try and do something, and that’s win championships. So, no matter what, it’s going to be love and hate.”
“He’s the enemy now,” Span added with a smile. “I’m pretty sure he’s going to be telling them about me and I’ll be doing the same.”