News & Politics

The Nationals’ Denard Span: Making It Home

A job change brought Denard Span back to the place of his birth. He’s learning to like it.

Photograph by Douglas Sonders.

At first, center-fielder Denard Span wasn’t thrilled about moving here. During ten years with the Minnesota Twins—half in the majors, half in the minors—he had grown to love the Midwest.

“I had a lot of ties there,” he says.

Then last November, Span, 29, learned he’d been traded to the Nationals. After the shock faded, he saw upsides—he would join stars Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth in the outfield.

This wasn’t Span’s first unexpected appearance in Washington. In 1984, his mother came here to visit friends while pregnant with him. But before she could make it home to Fort Lauderdale, she went into labor.

“I ended up just popping out,” Span said in an interview last fall.

The first half of the Nationals’ season has been frustrating. Injuries and poor hitting have dragged their winning percentage to around .500—a big disappointment for the team that Sports Illustrated predicted would win the World Series.

Span himself has played nearly flawless defense and posted a respectable on-base percentage of above .300. But the Nats will need even more from Span if they’re going to make a playoff run.

In the meantime, he has settled into an apartment in Crystal City, gotten stuck in Washington traffic, started watching ABC’s Scandal, and toured the White House.

Does he feel like a Washingtonian yet?

Says Span: “I’m getting there.”

This article appears in the August 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.

Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.