WASHINGTON -- Center fielder Denard Span may not have won the National League Gold Glove Award, but he was rewarded for his defensive skills on Thursday evening. The Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Awards named the best defensive player on each Major League team, and Span was named the Nationals' best defensive player for 2013.
Span had a great year in his first season in Washington. He didn't make an error in 384 total chances.
"Any time you are recognized by anybody, it's an honor," Span said. "I'm definitely thankful for that. I put in a lot of hard work to get this award. I try to bring [my defense] every day. No matter how I'm feeling offensively, I knew that I could help the ballclub defensively night in and night out.
"Growing up with the Twins, we prided ourselves on catching the ball pretty much. We had to, because we didn't have a lot of big names on our team. So we had to do the little things, which was play defense, to win games."
Span made a lot of great plays for Washington, but his best defensive game came on Aug. 14, when he made a game-ending catch in a 6-5 victory over the Giants. On an 0-1 pitch with two outs in the ninth inning, outfielder Hunter Pence surprised the Nats by pulling the ball to left-center field. Span, who was playing in right-center, had to go a long way, and he made a diving catch to end the game.
Span didn't know he had a chance to catch the ball until he was set to make the dive for it. Pence didn't know the catch was made until he heard the crowd's thunderous applause.
Asked if 2013 was his best season with the glove, Span said, "As far as taking care of the baseball, throwing the ball to the right base all the time, keeping the ball down -- all that plays into not having any errors. It's not just catching the ball; it's the throws as well. I felt like this is definitely my best year."
The GIBBY trophy for Defensive Player of the Year will be awarded as part of the 2013 Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards, which are based on voting by media, front-office personnel, MLB alumni and the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as fan balloting on MLB.com.
Through Sunday, Dec. 1, fans will be able to cast their ballots at MLB.com for the year's top defensive star, with no individual league affiliation.
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.