Span missed all of July and played nine games in August before he was sidelined for another 34 games. After his concussion, Span mustered seven hits and three walks in 60 plate appearances. He needed to move past the ordeal and convince himself his career would not be derailed.
A friend insisted he try yoga. He started after the 2011 season, and he found the practice helpful. He eased back into spring training before the 2012 season, and by opening day he felt normal.
“When you have a concussion, mentally everything is distraught,” Span said. “Your mind is psychologically, mentally, you’re all over the place. It was good for me last year to find yoga, just to bring all that back to that centered place.”
On that recent morning earlier this month, Span’s instructor concluded his class with shavasana, or “corpse pose.” The instructor reminded him and Wilson to lay on their back and relax as much as possible: Close your eyes. Make your bones heavy. Focus on your breathing. Think about the one thing you want to change.
As he lay on the ground, his breaths measured and loud, Span visualized himself at the Home Run Derby, sitting in foul ground, enjoying the spectacle at his first all-star game. He pictured himself smiling and jogging down the first base line as the public address announcer bellowed his name during introductions. He envisioned sliding into home with the winning run of an October game, then high-fiving a pack of Nationals teammates in the dugout.
“It’s almost like the season is fast-forwarding in my mind,” Span said. “I want to be the best I can be. I want to be an all-star.”
The faces of his teammates are hazy. The details of the home dugout at Nationals Park do not come. They will have to be filled in during the coming months, as he gets to know Washington and Washington gets to know him.
There is one other thing he thinks about, the one thing that lets him know he has, again, achieved consistency.
“Believing that I’m okay,” Span said, “and everything is going to be all right.”