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Ian Desmond makes an unconventional return to Nationals Park

Colorado’s Ian Desmond.(Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

Ian Desmond pulled into the players’ parking lot, just like he used to. He walked through the same door. His son, Grayson, pointed out familiar faces in pictures that hang on the wall of the tunnel outside the home clubhouse. But Desmond walked by them all, and into the visitor’s clubhouse instead.

“I got a lot more emotional than I thought I would,” Desmond said. “I’ve forgotten a lot of roads, too, which I didn’t think would happen. But it’s really good to see everybody, to be honest.”

An hour or so before Friday night’s game was rained out, the Rockies placed Desmond on the disabled list. He hurt his calf earlier this week — nothing serious, but enough to warrant 10 days of caution. He will not play in this weekend’s series. The first chance he will get to play in front of Nationals fans again will be next season, unless it’s in October.

“It’s tough. This is one I had marked on my schedule,” Desmond said. “I wanted to get back out in front of the fans that rooted for me for so long.”

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Desmond is hitting .285 with five homers and 10 stolen bases for Colorado, on pace for far fewer strikeouts than he accumulated in many of his seasons in Washington. The former Nationals shortstop has played 51 games in left field and 15 at first base for the Rockies, a year after he was an all-star in center field for the Texas Rangers.

Two seasons ago, his Nationals tenure ended. His last game provided little closure for the last of the Expos, marred by the fight between Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper, one that required Desmond to spend his final moments in the home dugout at Nationals Park breaking up a brawl.

“I’m not necessarily thinking about games or history here, it’s just more about spending time with the people you care about for so long that become part of your family and your daily life. It’s good to see them,” Desmond said.

“It would have been really nice to get back out on the field here and go through some of the routine. There were so many things I did before games here that kind of became ingrained into my life. I was looking forward to giving Susan a wave, she works outside the home dugout. And the fan up the first base side, I never actually got his name, we used to tip our cap to each other. All that stuff. I was looking forward to getting back to doing some of that stuff.”

While Desmond won’t get the full Nationals Park experience this weekend, he did take time to go back to another familiar spot — the Nationals Youth Academy in Southeast D.C. Desmond headed there as part of an event with current Nationals players, visiting a place he helped found and build, the one he used to visit unannounced and for which he served on the board.

“Some of the kids that were there are now in like the eighth grade, getting ready to venture on into bigger and better things,” Desmond said. “It was really good to see [Anthony] Rendon take that and doing great things there … I try to keep in touch as much as I can. At least in the loop. It still means a lot to me, the Academy.”

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