- Jay Recher
I met Denard Span for the first time almost ten years ago, when I was at a golf fundraiser for the Freedom High School baseball team. Our head coach, AJ Leppla, grew up with Denard and had him come out to support the program and to meet some of the players on the team. Denard was very friendly and we spoke for about 10 minutes about many things ranging from growing up in Tampa to facing Mariano Rivera. He was a class act and it was no surprise that he was close with AJ, who is still a dear friend of mine to this day.
Fast forward to a couple months ago where Denard was traded to his hometown team, the Tampa Bay Rays, in a deal involving longtime Rays star Evan Longoria. It really stunk to see Longo heading to the West Coast, but it was great to know that Denard was finally getting a chance to play in front of his hometown crowd.
We spoke with Denard at Rays FanFest, and then at Opening Day, and even though he was mildly surprised that he was on the Rays roster to start the season, he was excited to play in front of his friends and family at Tropicana Field.
Speaking of friends and family, I came across this picture on Facebook yesterday and wanted to share it with all of you Rays fans, especially in the midst of a disastrous start to the season. Before the game yesterday, Denard came out to the stands and said hello to AJ's six-year old son Jaxon. If you can see the sign BELOW it says, "Go Denard! Span is the Man! Hit a Home Run #2!"
Then, in the bottom of the 1st inning as he led off for the Rays, Denard smoked a home run on a 2-2 pitch to make Jaxon's wish come true. Jaxon was so excited to see the ball fly over the wall and even considers himself Denard's good luck charm now.
I know it's been a rough year so far for the Rays and their fans, but this is a moment that can hopefully bring a little joy to your day.
A big thank you to AJ's mom Margie for posting this picture and letting us use it for our story, and a shoutout to AJ's dad Don who is a big Rays fan and a big listener of WDAE! Love you guys!