On Nov. 29, center fielder Denard Span received an early Christmas present. That was the day the Nationals acquired him from the Twins in exchange for Minor League right-hander Alex Meyer. Span, 28, is expected to be Washington's center fielder for at least the next two years.
However, while he loves to receive, Span is about honoring his faith and handing out gifts to the needy during Christmastime. MLB.com caught up with Span recently to talk about Christmas and his thoughts on playing for his new team.
MLB.com: What does Christmas mean to you?
Span: Christmas means that it is Jesus Christ's birthday. That is first and foremost. Secondly, it's a great holiday being with family and friends. For me it's a season of giving instead of receiving. Last year, for example, I went to a toy drive and helped in the St. Petersburg/Tampa area. A couple of years ago, I dressed up as Santa Claus. My mom owns a daycare [center], and I gave out presents to a lot of her kids. That's a special moment, especially when you see the faces of kids and adults as well. It makes everything worthwhile. I gave out gifts, shoes, clothes and toys to the kids. It was a good feeling to help people out.
MLB.com: What did your mother teach you about Christmas?
Span: My mom is a minister, so she wanted me to understand the reason for Christmas. It just wasn't about gifts and toys. It was about the birth of Christ and the person that we serve. That's what Christmas is all about. Without Christ, nothing would be possible. We wouldn't do anything we desire to do. So first and foremost, we give him honor before we open up any presents or do anything on Christmas Day. We always woke up and gave him praise.
MLB.com: Do you remember the best toy you ever received?
Span: I would probably say the original Nintendo, with the Mario Brothers. ... It was fun.
MLB.com: You were traded to the Nationals this offseason. Did it feel like it was an early Christmas present?
Span: Yes, it was. At first, when it happened, I was sad that I was leaving Minnesota. I've been there for so long. Once I got over that and realized where I was going and what type of team I was going to, I instantly got excited, and the trade lit a fire underneath me. I worked a little harder this offseason. I'm going to a new team that already won the division last year. I'm going to try to make a good first impression and help them go further in the postseason.
MLB.com: Is it weird to play with different teammates for the first time?
Span: This is the first time in my career that I will put on another uniform, take a different route to Spring Training. It's going to be the first time for a lot of things for me next year. I thought about it, but it won't really hit me until Spring Training. I was in D.C. recently and the team gave me some Washington Nationals sunglasses, shorts and all that. It was the first time I wore that. It felt weird putting it on. I'm used to seeing the "TC" on my chest, shorts and all that. Little stuff like that, it starts to hit you: I've been traded. The page in my career has been turned.
MLB.com: If you had a Christmas wish, what would that be?
Span: It would be to win a World Series in 2013. That would be fitting, going to a new place and being a part of something special, at that.
MLB.com: What are you going to miss about Minnesota from a Christmas standpoint?
Span: I've never lived in Minnesota during offseason. I live in Florida. I'm not going to miss snow. I've never seen snow during Christmas in my life.
MLB.com: Would you want a white Christmas?
Span: I wouldn't mind one. At the same time, I'm not complaining about the weather here in Florida. Last year it was relatively hot. It was probably 80 degrees last year on Christmas. It didn't bother me. As long as it's 40, 50 degrees, that good enough for me.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.