On Thursday evening, the Nationals acquired the type of center fielder they have been seeking for years, pulling off a trade for Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins, a leadoff hitter, base stealer and strong defender that General Manager Mike Rizzo has long targeted. While Span admitted in an introductory conference call with reporters soon after the trade was announced that he knows only a little about the District, he has a curious and humorous but little-known connection to the city: he was born here.
Span, raised in Florida, was born in the District on Feb. 27, 1984. His mother, Wanda Wilson, went to college in Washington — as far as Span remembers, she attended the University of the District of Columbia. His uncle, on his mother’s side, called the District home for over 20 years.
Wilson was pregnant with Span then, living in Florida at the time. But she was visiting friends in the District when Span was born, planning originally to give birth to him in Fort Lauderdale. “I ended up just popping out,” he said, with a chuckle. (He can’t remember the name of the hospital.)
Since then, Span, 28, said he has visited Washington a couple of time and still has some family here. “Honestly, I haven’t been there enough to have a big opinion on the city,” he said. “Just from watching TV the last couple years, the new stadium and watching the fan base rallied behind the team last year. I’m definitely excited to call D.C. my home.”
Span said he was excited to get to know his teammates and playing with them, especially fellow outfielders Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth. (“Those guys are going to elevate my game,” he said.)
“I’m nervous, very nervous to meet everybody,” Span said. “I’ve been in the Minnesota organization for 10 years and it’s a very family-oriented organization. The same guys that were there from the time I got drafted 10 years ago are still there now. This is new for me.”
Span played with catcher Wilson Ramos, a former Twins prospect whom the Nationals acquired in a trade in 2010, in the major leagues that season. He met Ryan Zimmerman in 2008 in Tampa, where the Nationals third baseman was training during the offseason. Span also knows and played against Tyler Clippard, a Tampa native and former New York Yankees prospect and player.
“I’m bad with names,” Span said. “I’m going to have to figure out everybody’s name from the clubhouse guys to the players to everybody to the coaching staff. I’m definitely looking forward to it. I’m going to have to get me a notepad and try to keep track of people’s names.”