In high school there was a stretch of reasonably long, reasonably flat road that everyone used as their personal speedway. You’d come around the curve, turn your brights on, and floor it. Bragging rights for those who could coax their moms’ old Subarus up to 100. I never quite got there - between my law-breaking fears and sweet, old Volvo, Sven, triple digits were a pipe dream.
Yesterday afternoon, as the ball exploded off of Andrelton Simmons’ bat in the bottom of the seventh, it was already moving faster than Sven and I ever had. 97.8 exit velocity, soaring high through the Anaheim heat towards the fence in left center field. With its 28 degree launch angle it was almost a perfect Barrel, and what it lacked in Statcast classification it seemed set on making up for in runs batted in.
When they first teach you how to play in the outfield, one phrase always echoes: first step back, first step back, first step back. Denard Span began his professional baseball career as a center fielder, patrolling center for the Minnesota Twins, Washington Nationals, and San Francisco Giants, until transitioning over to left field this year with both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Mariners. That first step back is instinctual for him now, and yesterday was no different.
First step back, and then another, and another. He’s sprinting towards the wall, eyes never leaving the path of the ball, stride measured and in control. His left hand stretches out as his feet hit the warning track dirt, feeling for the wall, perhaps using it as added leverage as he crouches and leaps. The ball lands squarely in the pocket of his glove, flopping harmlessly over the left center field fence. A run still scored, but what could have been a one-run game instead remained a more comfortable 8-5 lead.
(In some replay angles it looked as though the ball wasn’t going to make it over the fence. It travelled 392 feet, so allow me to put that misguided belief to rest.)
As of this morning, the Denard Span Foundation has raised $9,552 of their goal to raise $10,000 in June and July in celebration of Span’s ten years in the major leagues. The Lookout Landing community came through in a big way back in June, when we first shared information about Span’s Foundation, and now we’re asking for one final push. Channel your inner Span, using that extra reserve of strength to propel himself above the wall, and let’s see if we can’t get the Foundation to their goal.