Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fennelly: Denard Span still values mom, benevolence and wielding a mean bat

TAMPA

It had to be a first.

Last season, the San Francisco Giants held a Denard Span bobblehead giveaway. The team's centerfielder and leadoff man, who was raised in Tampa and played for Tampa Catholic High, was given a sneak preview of his bobblehead.

Span kicked it back.

"There was no gray in my beard," Span said.

They added some gray.

"It's distinctive," Span said, laughing. "I'm embracing it."

He turns 33 next month during spring training. Span has been a professional for 14 years, since he was chosen in the first round, 20th overall, by the Minnesota Twins in the 2003 baseball draft.

"It took me 51/2 years to get to the majors," he said.

He is heading into his 10th big-league season. On Tuesday, Span worked out at Diesel Fitness near downtown Tampa. It's about getting ready.

Is 32 really that old?

Span smiled:

"It ain't young. It ain't old, but it ain't young."

Span has had a very nice career. He has a .284 batting average, including consecutive .300 seasons in 2014 and 2015, and an on-base percentage of .350. A very good glove. He has used his legs on the basepaths to turn doubles into triples and in center to make hits into outs.

Before last season, Span signed as a free agent with the Giants, three years, $31 million, after coming off an injury-plagued 2015 in Washington that featured three surgeries in nine months, including season-ending hip surgery. He played only 61 games.

Span's first year in San Francisco wasn't everything he wanted. He had career highs in home runs (11) and RBIs (53), but his average dipped to .266, his on-base percentage dropped, and he had only 12 steals in 19 attempts.

"Last year I showed up at spring training six months post-surgery," Span said. "I was healthy, but I wasn't myself. … I'm looking forward to this season. It was the first full offseason I've had in two years. I don't think I have anything to prove. Just to remind some people that what I've done the majority of my career, I can still do it. I'm still me."

So much about Span is still him. He still gives back in the community. The Denard Span Foundation is dedicated to helping single parents and their children. Span gave away Thanks­giving dinner boxes to 100 Tampa families. He held a Christmas celebration for more than 100 children and single parents. And there are his back-to-school giveaways.

"I just get great joy from seeing other people smile, to take maybe a little of the weight of the world off them, even if it's just for one day," he said.

It goes back to lessons from Span's mother, Wanda Wilson, a single parent who raised two sons, making all their practices when not working as a claims adjuster, and later when she bought a day care center.

Span has a relationship with his father, who lives in Orlando. But his mother is his rock. They attend church together, Wednesdays and Sundays, when Denard is home in the offseason.

"Denard is a child who always wanted to do well," Wanda said. "Denard is a child who always wanted to do the right thing. Denard is a child who always wanted to please his mom. Denard is a child who never wanted to cause me to cry."

And Denard is the child who did what any dutiful son would do:

He hit his mother with a foul ball.

They can smile about it now. In March 2010, Span was leading off for the Twins in a spring training game against the Yankees in Tampa. Wanda was in box seats with some teachers and children from her day care. Denard fought off an inside pitch. Liner. He looked up. He looked hard. It was his mom.

"You've got to be kidding me," he thought.

Span hopped into the stands. Wanda was hit in the right chest. She said doctors at the hospital told her if she had been struck in her left chest, things could have gone very badly. As far as she and her son are concerned, God watched over them. Denard wanted to go to the hospital with Wanda.

"Go out there and play," she said.

Spring training is around the corner. Denard Span is ready to go out there and play. He has played in four postseasons for three teams but hasn't made it past a division series.

"Being considered a winner, I mean, that's everything," Span said.

Well, not everything.

"I'd like for people to respect me for going about it the right way."

There's no gray area.

Except in his beard.

Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly.

Career by the numbers >

Denard Span has played for the Twins, Nationals and Giants in nine major-league seasons.

Fennelly: Denard Span still values mom, benevolence and wielding a mean bat 01/18/17 [Last modified: Thursday, January 19, 2017 8:59am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Justin Timberlake in Super Bowl halftime show for first time since 'wardrobe malfunction'

    Celebrities

    Justin Timberlake has finally been invited back to the Super Bowl halftime show, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson caused a national controversy.

    Singer Janet Jackson covers her breast as Justin Timberlake holds part of her costume after her outfit came undone during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston in 2004. The NFL announced Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, that Timberlake will headline the Super Bowl halftime show Feb. 4 in Minnesota, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson cause a national controversy. [Associated Press]
  2. No more looking at Jim Harbaugh, but should we look at Notre Dame?

    College

    STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Overheard Sunday morning in a hotel elevator, among two Penn State fans: "Did you see Coach Harbaugh's interview? He looked shellshocked. One of those coaches with his job on the line."

    Jim Harbaugh and Michigan are falling out of the national conversation; Sunday they fell out of the AP rankings after a blowout loss to Penn State. [Detroit Free Press/TNS]
  3. NFL Week 7: What we learned

    Bucs

    Are the Purple People Eaters back in Minnesota? The Vikings sacked Joe Flacco five times and held the Ravens to 208 total yards in a 24-16 home victory, their third straight win. QB Case Keenum looked ordinary with a 67.7 passer rating after completing 20-of-31 for 188 yards and an interception. Kai Forbath …

    Trainers, top, check Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas after Thomas was hurt in the second half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) OHTD122
  4. Bills' comeback against Bucs a win for the process

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It hasn't taken Sean McDermott long to understand how to play to his base. Asked if the Bills had "gotten away with one" Sunday, the first-year coach gushed about his team reflecting the character of the town.

    Under first-year coach Sean McDermott, the Bills are 3-0 at home for the first time in six years. “I love playing here,” he says.
  5. No. 18 UCF closes in on USF, which drops to No. 17

    College

    USF remained ahead of UCF in the Associated Press Top 25 poll released Sunday — just barely.