Sep 28, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
For some, it was perhaps lost in the shuffle of what was an otherwise bizarre day at Nationals Park, but on Sunday afternoon there was a uniquely special moment for the Nats and their fans. In the ninth inning, with the Nats down big against the Phillies, Matt Williams removed Ian Desmond for rookie Trea Turner.
Why was that significant? Well, it was probably the final time Desmond will play in Washington as a member of the Nationals. The 28,661 in attendance gave Desmond a standing ovation and a roaring applause as he hopped to the top step of the dugout for a curtain call.
Desmond, 30, is a free agent this offseason. He is likely to sign with another team and leave the only MLB franchise he’s ever known, the franchise that drafted him as 12 years ago when he was an 18-year-old kid from Sarasota, Florida.
Desmond was actually drafted by the Montreal Expos before they moved to Washington and became the Nationals. He is the only remaining player who is a holdover from those days within the organization.
Leaving the Nats will not be easy for Desmond, if that is indeed how this offseason plays out. He has spoken in the past about how he became a man under the caring watch of coaches and officials who are still with the team, and alongside many of the players he calls teammates today.
“That was pretty special,” Desmond said of the curtain call. “It was bittersweet. I spent a lot of time here and I have a lot of special memories. Certainly that will be among the better ones.”
Desmond debuted in 2009 and in the time since went from one of the rawest prospects in baseball to one of the game’s best shortstops. He has three Silver Slugger awards on his mantle and was a key figure on two NL East-winning teams.
Desmond has made a lot of fans over the years with his ability to hit for power unlike many shortstops and his rare ability to make sensational plays on defense. He has, however, also drawn his fair share of criticism for striking out too much and committing costly errors.
Desmond knows the opinions of him are strong, but is simply thankful for those who cared to have one.
“I appreciate the emotion,” he said. “Whether you cheered for me, loved me or hated me, booed me or whatever. To invest emotionally in somebody, not everyone gets that. There’s been over history plenty of irrelevant players who didn’t get anything from fans emotionally. Positive or negative, whatever you decided to invest in me, I appreciate it and I respect it. I went out there every day and grinded it out.”
If Desmond leaves, he will do so after a disappointing season that saw the Nationals fall far short of their expectations to win a World Series. The former All-Star, though, insists that will not diminish any sort of sentimentality he feels about his time in D.C. likely winding down. Desmond does have strong feelings about the Nats and their fans, and he only sees the positives in that.
“It’s nothing bad. That’s a good sign. Just kind of embrace it and realize it feels this way because I have built some really good relationships with some of you guys, and fans, and obviously everyone in [the Nats clubhouse]. But it’s all good stuff. Everything is positive. Except the team’s situation,” he said.
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ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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