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Desmond savors what could be final home game with Nats

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Desmond savors what could be final home game with Nats

For some, it was perhaps lost in the shuffle of what was an otherwise bizarre day at Nationals Park, but on Sunday afternoon there was a uniquely special moment for the Nats and their fans. In the ninth inning, with the Nats down big against the Phillies, Matt Williams removed Ian Desmond for rookie Trea Turner. 

Why was that significant? Well, it was probably the final time Desmond will play in Washington as a member of the Nationals. The 28,661 in attendance gave Desmond a standing ovation and a roaring applause as he hopped to the top step of the dugout for a curtain call.

Desmond, 30, is a free agent this offseason. He is likely to sign with another team and leave the only MLB franchise he's ever known, the franchise that drafted him as 12 years ago when he was an 18-year-old kid from Sarasota, Florida.

Desmond was actually drafted by the Montreal Expos before they moved to Washington and became the Nationals. He is the only remaining player who is a holdover from those days within the organization.

Leaving the Nats will not be easy for Desmond, if that is indeed how this offseason plays out. He has spoken in the past about how he became a man under the caring watch of coaches and officials who are still with the team, and alongside many of the players he calls teammates today.

"That was pretty special," Desmond said of the curtain call. "It was bittersweet. I spent a lot of time here and I have a lot of special memories. Certainly that will be among the better ones."

Desmond debuted in 2009 and in the time since went from one of the rawest prospects in baseball to one of the game's best shortstops. He has three Silver Slugger awards on his mantle and was a key figure on two NL East-winning teams.

Desmond has made a lot of fans over the years with his ability to hit for power unlike many shortstops and his rare ability to make sensational plays on defense. He has, however, also drawn his fair share of criticism for striking out too much and committing costly errors.

Desmond knows the opinions of him are strong, but is simply thankful for those who cared to have one.

"I appreciate the emotion," he said. "Whether you cheered for me, loved me or hated me, booed me or whatever. To invest emotionally in somebody, not everyone gets that. There's been over history plenty of irrelevant players who didn't get anything from fans emotionally. Positive or negative, whatever you decided to invest in me, I appreciate it and I respect it. I went out there every day and grinded it out."

If Desmond leaves, he will do so after a disappointing season that saw the Nationals fall far short of their expectations to win a World Series. The former All-Star, though, insists that will not diminish any sort of sentimentality he feels about his time in D.C. likely winding down. Desmond does have strong feelings about the Nats and their fans, and he only sees the positives in that.

"It's nothing bad. That's a good sign. Just kind of embrace it and realize it feels this way because I have built some really good relationships with some of you guys, and fans, and obviously everyone in [the Nats clubhouse]. But it's all good stuff. Everything is positive. Except the team's situation," he said.

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Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm