Mom's toughness continues to resonate for Span
Outfielder 'back home,' starting in city where Wilson began lessons
WASHINGTON -- Wanda Wilson made news on March 31, 2010. She was attending the Twins-Yankees game in Tampa to watch her son, then-Twins outfielder Denard Span, play an exhibition game.
In the top of the first inning, Span came to the plate and hit a foul ball that struck Wilson in the chest. She showed how tough she was by declining to go to the hospital and watched the rest of the game.
It's not the only time Wilson has shown toughness. She raised two boys -- Denard and Ray -- by herself in the Tampa area. She made sure her two boys put their priorities in the order: Believe in God, work hard and don't cut corners.
Wilson, 60, was an example of a person who followed those rules. While raising two boys, she worked hard and now owns a child-care center in Tampa.
"She said if you put forth the work, I would be able to accomplish and receive anything I wanted," Span remembered.
Talk to Wilson and you will not hear her complain about being a single parent.
"You take life as it is. It is what it is," Wilson said. "I choose not to complain, but I get up and do what I have to do. ... These children are looking up to you who are their source. I can sum it up by saying, I take parenting very seriously.
"It was not a hard task [raising two boys]. I instilled certain values in them. By the time they became teenagers and middle school, it really wasn't hard. I took a lot of time with them. I kept them involved in a lot of activities -- sport activities, church activities, community activities. They were never ever bored. During the summer, they had so much involvement."
Span, 29, has accomplished a lot to make Wilson proud, too. He has been in the big leagues for six years and is currently the leadoff hitter for the Nationals. Span has never won a Gold Glove Award, but his defense is outstanding in center field. Span is hoping this is the year he can help the Nats reach the World Series.
Wilson is pleased that her son is playing for the Nationals. Not only did Wilson go to school in the nation's capital, she gave birth to Span in D.C. before moving her family to Tampa. She doesn't hesitate to visit her son from time to time. Not only did she attend the home opener against the Marlins at Nationals Park, she recently traveled from Tampa to Atlanta to watch the Nats play a four-game series against the Braves.
"I'm very happy that he is playing there. He is, too. In fact, the whole family is very proud that the Nationals [traded for] Denard," Wilson said. "He was born there, so It's kind of like going back home in a sense. We are so proud that they thought enough of him to want him to play for the organization. That something to be said of the owners."
Wilson is not surprised to see her son in the Major Leagues. Ever since Span was 9 years old, Wilson had a feeling she would see her son play Major League Baseball.
"I saw him working hard when a lot of other children that age didn't want to put the time into it. They didn't want to invest the time into it," Wilson said. "Denard would be over there, throwing the ball, trying to get with somebody older to show him what to do and how to do it."
That hard work paid off, for Span was drafted in the first round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft and has had a successful baseball career since then. Span is happy that is mother is able to see him play professional baseball.
"It's always nice to have her there," Span said "Still, to this day, I hear her voice. It could be 20,000, 30,000 people in the stands, but I hear her scream or whatever while I'm hitting. It's a dream come true just to make her proud."
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.