September 25, 2009
About 48 hours after getting hit in the head with a pitch against the White Sox on Monday, Minnesota Twins outfielder Denard Span(notes) was still feeling the effects. So what better way to test his mental faculties and ease him back to the field than with a long-form Answer Man Q&A? Being a popular player in his second full season, though, Span is a man in demand so we had to share the beginning of the interview with two other reporters. That's OK; they scattered after the beanball talk so Span could get down to topics that delved within his skull.
David Brown [actually Kelsie Smith of the Pioneer Press]: Are you worried about stepping back in and facing live pitching after getting beaned?
Denard Span: I've been praying a lot, just asking God — if there is any fear — to get rid of it. Hopefully I'll be able to step in and be myself. Maybe get a little angrier. Make some fools pay. Nah, I'm just [kidding]. You've seen me angry in spring training. It's a good anger, not a bad anger. It's a motivating anger.
Brown [actually me now]: You also had the inner ear infection — it's kind of been a rough year for your head.
Span: Yeah, it's been weird, almost like there's a big question mark going on in my head. Just not being as sharp, I guess. Some of the veterans were messing with me, telling me maybe I'm not as quick on my toes when they have something funny to say. I think I'll be all right. I feel, like, 48 hours after getting hit, I feel lucky. Someone was looking out for me; God was looking over me because it could have been a lot worse.
Brown: A TV announcer [Hawk Harrelson] said of your beaning, if you're going to get hit anywhere in the head, the back of the helmet is preferable. Is that so?
Span: It's the same thing our clubhouse manager was saying too, because the back of the helmet is, I think, where the majority of the padding in the helmet is. Like I said, I got hit in the back of the head with a 91-mph fastball but it could have been worse. Things happen for a reason — I'm a firm believer in that. Was it meant for me to get two or three days off? I don't know. If I had to do it again, I wouldn't want to get hit in the head by a fastball to get three days off [laughs].
Span: I may wear it the first game or something, but I don't know about for the rest. Maybe as a joke. David Wright — he wore it for one at-bat, didn't he? We have them at home. If [the Twins equipment manager] brought one on the road, I'd [use] it the first game just to kind of know that I have something extra on my head. If the ball comes at me, I'd just head-butt the ball [laughs].
Brown: You're in the top 10 in the league in being hit by pitches.
Span: Am I?
Brown: It doesn't seem like it?
Span: I've been hit a couple times (nine) this year, obviously, but didn't think I was in the top 10. That's not a category I really would like to be in the top 10 in. I know I stand [near] the plate, though.
Brown: It does get you on base.
Span: Oh, yeah. My onbase percentage is pretty good. The other night after getting hit in the head, I was walking off the field and said to myself, "Onbase percentage," so ...
Brown: Why are you so selective at the plate? Some guys, they come up and swing at the first pitch that comes along every time. You see a lot of pitches, you draw a lot of walks.
Span: It's my job. That's something that I learned over my years in the minor leagues. It didn't happen overnight. I wasn't always this selective, but it's my job and I know what the team needs me to do. I have no problem doing it.
Brown: What keepsake will you smuggle out of the Metrodome at the end of the year?
Span: I'd take a rat.
Brown: You've seen rats in the Metrodome?
Span: There are small ones running through our locker room. It's not fun. What would I really take? I don't know; I've only really been there a year and a half.
Brown: Are you sentimental by nature?
Span: No, I'm not even someone who takes very many pictures.
Brown: Can you believe the NFL won't move Vikings-Packers from the Metrodome in the event you guys have a tiebreaker with Detroit there a week from Monday?
Span: I don't know what's right there. That's big business. Monday night, primetime game. That's a lot of money they're banking on, especially Brett Favre playing his old team in the Metrodome. Maybe if it was Michael Vick returning, they'd bump it [laughs]. I don't know.
Brown: Nobody ever seems to tackle Adrian Peterson. How would you do it?
Span: How would I tackle him? I don't know. I'd probably stuff some food in his facemask. I don't know what he puts on his jersey, but it seems like everyone just slips off him. I'd just grab him by his facemask. It's better than watching him go 80 yards. Take your 15-yard penalty and get it over with [laughs].
Brown: Back to baseball for a second. The Denard Span No. 42 Jackie Robinson jersey from the April game is up for auction at e-Bay, going for just short of $900 at last check.
Span: How'd it get on eBay? Did our team put it on eBay?
Brown: Well, it probably was signed by you and then the Twins had an auction and now the guy who bought it wants to make a profit.
Span: Oh, OK. And mine is going for nine-hundred bucks?
Brown: Do I hear $1,000?
Span: Hey, I got $1,000. Why not? I can afford that.
Brown: You seemed worried to find that it's on eBay, though. Do you think there might be some shenanigans going on?
Span: I hope not. I don't want anyone to do anything to curse Jackie Robinson, who was such a great player.
Brown: OK. It's probably on the up and up. Anyway, I guess the jersey is just filthy. Dirty, from sliding, or something. You went 1-for-4 with a strikeout that day against the Blue Jays. Do you happen to remember what you did to get it dirty? Maybe we can jack the price up a little.
Span: I don't remember what I did. But that's how he's advertising it? "It's got real Metrodome dirt on it"?
Brown: Speaking of real dirt, you're moving outdoors to a new stadium. What if you get hypothermia on opening day next year? Being from the South, are you the likeliest Twins player to freeze to death?
Span: That's a possibility, man. I'm from Florida and my skin is real thin. That's not going to be a good look if that happens. It's going to be a long month [of April].
Brown: Will Target Field have a giant Baggie like in the Metrodome?
Span: I don't think so. I went there a couple of weeks ago. I don't think it's going to be quite like that.
Brown: Will Target Field have a Target in it?
Span: Yes! [laughs]. Oh, that's a good question. Actually, I don't know for sure. That'd be a good idea.
Brown: Let's pretend we're going to Target. What do you want to pick up for yourself?
Span: If I go to Target, I'd probably get some underwear, some [white tank top T-shirts], socks. Or a DVD. A video game. I won't go clothes shopping. Basic stuff. Toothpaste. Deodorant.
Brown: What about shopping for groceries?
Span: You know what? Where I'm from in Florida, Wal-Mart is a little bit bigger than Target. I'm in Minnesota, where Wal-Mart — it's almost like it doesn't exist. There might be one Wal-Mart in Minnesota, so it's kind of weird seeing so many Targets. Back home, all the Wal-Marts are, like, Super Wal-Marts and grocery stores. I wouldn't mind going grocery shopping in a Super Target but this is all part of the adjustment to the major leagues [laughs].
Editors note: Wal-Mart's Web site says there are 20 of its stores within 27 miles of Minneapolis. Target's shows there are 51 of its stores in the Twin Cities area — a substantial lead for the hometown store.
Brown: By the way, you need a triple and two homers for a season triple-double.
Span: A season what?
Brown: A season triple-double: at least 10 homers, 10 doubles and 10 triples. Other than catching the Tigers, is that on your mind at all?
Span: And I need two home runs and one triple? I'd rather hit no home runs and win the division.
Brown: I'm not saying you can't do both.
Span: Well, if I can do both, then definitely. I always told myself I wanted to hit double-digit home runs. I never have in any season. That'd be nice.
Brown: Are you getting better at stealing bases?
Span: Heh. No [laughs].
Brown: What's the matter?
Span: It hasn't been a good year for base-stealing on this team, I don't know. It seems like every team we play when I'm trying to steal, the pitcher is like a 0.06 [seconds] to the plate and Johnny Bench is behind the plate. It feels like the league is out to get me. But then when I watch a Red Sox game or a Devil Rays game, it seems like the pitchers and catchers are just letting [Jacoby] Ellsbury and [Carl Crawford(notes)] and [Chone] Figgins make stealing look so easy. It's a little frustrating, but you better believe that I'm going to get better. I'm going to give Ellsbury a run for his money one day.
Brown: I've heard White Sox fans describe you as a real pain in the butt.
Span: Yeah? Wow. Thank you.
Brown: You take comments like that well.
Span: I appreciate that. That means a lot to me, to know that they think so lowly of me [laughs].
Span: How much? It would have to be a multiyear deal. It'd be something like 10 years, $100 million. I'd do it.
Brown: All you gotta do, really, is add a little arch to the "N" in Span and you're done.
Span: And I would do it. For $100 million.
Brown: Do you actually like Spam?
Span: Ahh, I don't dislike it. It's something I've tasted before but not something I have in my refrigerator. It's all right.
Brown: C-Span airs uninterrupted live coverage of the House of Representatives and the Senate. What does "D-Span" cover?
Span: It would probably be something like BET. A lot of BET.
Span: BET, CMT.
Brown: CMT, yeah?
Span: No [laughs]. BET and SportsCenter [laughs].
Brown: What was your rookie hazing costume?
Span: I had on some Daisy Duke shorts that went all the way up by my genital area. I had a country farmer flannel shirt that I had to tie in a bow above my belly button. And I had on a blond wig.
Brown: Good look for you?
Span: I hated it.
Span: Ahh, maybe. I don't like when he does his card tricks around me. It frustrates me and I think he knows it. So, whenever he does his tricks, I try not to be around. Either I'm trying to figure it out, or I can't and he knows that it drives me nuts.
Brown: You didn't grow up a Rays fan in Tampa. Has anyone?
Span: Anyone who says they grew up a Rays fan in Tampa, they're a liar, I don't care. I went home this off-season and saw a lot of Rays tags and t-shirts and caps. It's a bunch of baloney, a bunch of bull.
Nobody in Tampa grew up a Rays fan. They just started winning — and I'm happy for them, I am happy for the organization — but if you bump into anybody who says they grew up a Rays fan, don't believe it.
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