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Nationals' center fielder Denard Span gives back to Tampa Bay families

Washington Nationals' center fielder Denard Span capped off a big year with a charitable act, playing Santa Claus to a group of Tampa Bay families. The Nats' 30-year-old outfielder continues to impress on and off the field.

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Denard Span lived up to expectations on the field this past season, putting up a .302/.355/.416 line in 147 games and 668 plate appearances with career highs in doubles (39) and stole bases (31) in a +3.8 fWAR campaign.

Washington's leadoff man was one of the Nationals who struggled in the NLDS, however, going just 2 for 19 in the four-game loss to the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

"It starts with me at the top and I didn't do my job," Span said after Game 4 of the Division series in AT&T Park.

"D-Span was a guy that I thought was a better hitter the last day of the season than he was when we first got him..." -Mike Rizzo on Denard Span on 106.7 the FAN in September

"A lot of us didn't do our jobs, so it's too bad."

"It's frustrating when you get to this point and like I said, we didn't play to our capabilities," he told reporters. "Point blank. Period. That's probably going to stick with me this whole offseason, knowing I and the rest of the guys, we didn't play to our capabilities."

After the solid year on the field, Span's $9M option for 2015 was picked up.

That wasn't too much a surprise considering how Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo talked about him in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier toward the end of the regular season.

"D-Span was a guy that I thought was a better hitter the last day of the season than he was when we first got him," Rizzo said of his defensive ballhawk of a center fielder, who has a combined .290/.341/.398 line in 300 games played for the Nats since he was acquired from the Minnesota Twins in November of 2012.

"I think D-Span has been a guy who has really grown in his role as a leadoff man and defensive stalwart in the outfield and is a guy that has a lot of good years left," Rizzo continued.

After his big year on the field, Span made headlines this weekend for his off-field activities.

The D.C.-born, and Tampa Bay-raised, 30-year-old major leaguer played Santa Claus for ten families at the Springhill Park Community Center in Tampa, Florida, delivering gifts, books and bicycles to the adults and children and sharing his own story of growing up in a single parent family and, "... not getting distracted by temptations as an adolescent in an urban community," as Tampa Bay Times' correspondent Andy Warrener wrote in an article on the event.

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