This One’s for the Birds

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The Nationals held their first team work out of Spring Training Thursday. And while Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond put on a power display in batting practice, it was a wild osprey that stole the show.

Clutching a large fish in its talons, the bird of prey flew low over the field as it headed for its nest atop a nearby light tower. Center fielder Denard Span spotted it immediately.

“I saw the bird with something attached to its claws,” Span said. “At first, everyone was trying to figure out what it was. Then once I saw it was a fish, I realized he was gonna drop it.”

Ian Desmond: slick-fielding, 20-20 shortstop and... wild game warden?

Ian Desmond: slick-fielding, 20-20 shortstop and…wild game warden?

Span, known for his eye at the plate, was correct in his prediction. Out came the fish, falling to the turf about 25 feet beyond the cut of the grass in shallow center field.

“I could tell what the bird was thinking,” Span said, mimicking a person with his face in his palms. “I just dropped my dinner.”

But the osprey wasn’t ready to give up its meal. It circled back, as nervous fielders kept one eye on the rest of batting practice and one eye on the skies. Span tried his best to deter the bird from returning.

“I was just screaming,” he said with a laugh. “I’m not an outdoorsman. I didn’t want him to attack me.”

Desmond, who later picked up the fish and tossed it over the fence, didn’t think twice about the incident.

“I’m from here, so I see stuff like that all the time,” the Sarasota native said. “I’ve seen osprey flying with fish, rats or whatever. Never seen them drop in the middle of the field, though.”

“It was a pretty big fish,” he continued. “I think it was a crappie.”

Asked why he would pick up the fish and carry it off the field, Desmond got straight to the point.

“I’ve been fishing my whole life,” he said. “I’ve grabbed plenty of fish before.”

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