Before Ian Desmond even realized the Nationals’ spring training schedule had been released this winter, he received a call from his mother-in-law. She breathlessly told him that the Nationals would be traveling to play the Orioles in Sarasota, both Desmond’s hometown and current residence.
“She’s been hyping it up for a while,” Desmond said.
Today brought the game Desmond’s family had been waiting for, an otherwise nondescript spring training game Desmond will not forget. He had not played in Sarasota as a professional, or played any baseball in Sarasota since the Expos drafted him in 2004.
“One of the better days of my career,” Desmond said.
Desmond estimated a minimum of between 100 and 200 friends and family attended. His 10-month-old son sat with Desmond’s wife in the stands. Old high school coaches came. He signed autographs for local kids he has coached in clinics. Before the game, his little brother gave him a haircut.
“I can’t even put a number on it,” Desmond said. “It seemed like everybody was here.”
Desmond attended high school at Sarasota High, which sits down the street from Ed Smith Stadium. He grew up five miles from the park and now lives less than two hours away. He drove to Sarasota from Kissimmee on Friday night, and he had no trouble finding the park this morning.
“It’s cool,” Desmond said. “This is really exciting for me to get back here, see a bunch of people. It was fun. A great experience.”
Desmond went 1 for 3 and handled all his chances in the field without issue. Long after those details from his memory, Desmond will remember the rest of the day.