- Ian's mother, Pattie Paradise, told her son he could do anything he wanted as long as he didn't quit.
In fact, it was Paradise who told Desmond and his three siblings to never use the word "can't" when it came to reaching their goals in life.
"I don't think I did anything different or anything better than anybody else as a parent," Paradise said via telephone. "I always told my kids not to tell people you can't do something ... because you can do it. ... I guess I always said it thinking that everybody thought that way. With sports and stuff, I always said, 'You started something, you finish it. If you started the season, you finish the season. Don't tell me you can't get along with Coach. Don't tell me you can't play, you don't want to finish or anything like that.'"
Paradise did more than encourage her son to become a baseball player. As a hairdresser, she worked at least 15 hours per day to make sure Desmond had the equipment to play baseball. He still has the first baseball glove she and her husband bought him while he was in elementary school.
His mom is most proud of "the way he is off the field. I love the way he is on the field. He was real young when he got drafted. He really conducted himself like a man, which I was really proud of. He was never cocky."
Without question, Desmond plays every game as if it is his last. He credits Paradise for instilling that work ethic in him.
"The harder she worked, the more she could do for us," he said. "That is the lesson I learned. My whole life, I have been a grinder. I've always been a hard worker. I definitely got that from my mom. She carried a couple of jobs, at times. She did everything she could."
Even though he is married with a young son, Paradise is the first person Ian calls when things are going wrong on or off the field.
"She is just awesome. She is an unbelievable mother. There's not one thing I can say that I wish she did better," Desmond said. "She was there for me through and through." (Bill Ladson-MLB.com-5/12/12)
- Desmond has a quick mind. He is very intelligent and able to digest coaching tips, then putting them into action on the field.
- Desmond stood out to Sarasota High School Coach Clyde Metcalf from the start. Ian would drive to Metcalf's house on Sundays and ask for the keys to the batting cages so he could go hit.
"He's really just a sponge for information, for coaching," Metcalf told Washington Post reporter Barry Svrluga in 2005 spring training. "He's mature, and he's a very, very hard worker. Those kinds of traits make him someone that's probably very inviting for an organization like (the Nationals)."
Ian's high school in Sarastoa, Florida produced numerous drafted prospects. Marcus Sanders, older than Desmond by a year, was a high school teammate whom Desmond always considered more gifted. As such, before Sanders became a 2003 draft pick of the San Francisco Giants, Desmond played second base, to make room for Sanders at shortstop.
"He was always better then me coming up when we were kids," Desmond said.
Because of injuries, Sanders never advanced above Class A ball.
Desmond really impressed the brass of the Nationals during 2005 spring training. "I wouldn't be afraid to bring him to the big leagues to play defense," General Manager Jim Bowden said. And Ian hit .294 in exhibition games.
Former manager Frank Robinson said, "I'm telling you: His instincts are better than some guys I've seen play the game for 20 years. He doesn't seem overwhelmed by the situation. He doesn't panic out there. And when you ask him a question, he gives you a very quick, sound answer. He doesn't stare at you like, 'Let me think about that.'"
Ian has a great temperament and is a natural leader on the field. Comparisons abound, from Derek Jeter to Barry Larkin. Desmond brings excitement to the field because of how hard he plays. His best attributes may be his solid leadership ability and work ethic.
In 2005, the Baseball America's Prospect Handbook rated Ian as 19th-best prospect in the Washington farm system. The magazine moved him up in the spring of 2006, ranking Desmond as 4th-best prospect in the Nationals' organization.
During the winter before 2007 spring training, the magazine had Ian as 10th-best prospect in the Nationals organization. In the spring of 2008, they had him at #14. In the spring of 2009, he was rated the 19th-best prospect in the Nationals' farm system.
But, they moved Ian back up to #4 in the Nats' farm system in the winter before 2010 spring training.
Ian is congenial and fan friendly.
He has dreamed of being a Major Leaguer since his pre-teen years.
"From my 12th birthday until this birthday (23, in 2009), every single time I've wished that I get to the big leagues," Desmond said. "I said, 'I want to be a Major League baseball player.' I never made another wish. Not once."
Ian played his first Major League game on September 10, 2009. He had his first hit, a double and an RBI, during his second at bat. Later in the same game, he hit his first home run.
He followed that up with a 4-for-4 game, and become only the second player ever (along with Guy Sturdy of the 1927 St. Louis Browns) to record at least six hits and four RBI in his first two games as a Major Leaguer.
In January 2010, Desmond married Chelsea, his high school sweetheart, the girl he'd had a crush on since fifth grade.
On April 26, 2011, Ian took a few days of paternity leave to be with his wife, Chelsea in Sarasota, Florida while she was giving birth to their baby boy, Grayson Wesley Desmond.
Chelsea Desmond may be the most superstitious baseball wife Nationals TV play-by-play man, Bob Carpenter says he has ever seen.
Ian's sister, Nikki, met Rockies pitcher Josh Roenicke in Saratoga, Florida, where the Desmond family lives, in 2006 when he was with the Reds for Spring Training.
They married in December of 2010, and thus a myriad of competitive family battles was born. Roenicke and Desmond, who get along great, have dueled in one-on-one basketball, pool, and just about everything else, but they had never faced each other on the diamond until June 26, 2012.
Desmond got the better of Roenicke, hitting a 2-1 slider to left-center for a two-out triple in the sixth inning.
"I'm mad at him for throwing me three sliders," Desmond said. "They were up, he should have challenged me."
Roenicke considers it the first time he's ever been bested by his brother-in-law.
"We'll argue about it, but I like to say I'm the better athlete," Roenicke said. "Ian smacked that ball, I'm glad it stayed in the park."
"Josh would say that," he said with a laugh. "But all I know is it's 1-0 at the pro level."
Ian is a leader on the Nationals. For example, when a pitcher is in trouble during an inning, Desmond is the first guy to the mound to say something. And he is an example, playing with intensity and passion. He is a gamer.
TRUSTING IN GOD
Ian was asked why he had such a great year in 2012.
"I felt like God had more important issues to deal with than my baseball career. I put my faith in him and said, 'Hey, get my athletic ability to do whatever you want. Hopefully, I can glorify you.' It has been great. That took a lot of pressure off my shoulders.
"Going 0-for-4 wasn't so bad. I realized it was part of the process and this is the way He wanted it to be. I'll bounce back from it. You have to learn from that kind of stuff. An 0-for-4 wasn't necessarily keeping me awake all night like it was in the past. I just bounce back from it, kind of brush it off. That was part of the plan. It made it easy all year long," Desmond said.
It seems like yesterday when Desmond received a lot of criticism for making a lot of errors at shortstop and striking out too much. But Desmond decided that he was going to change his approach toward the game before the 2012 season. A conversation with his wife, Chelsey, convinced Desmond to turn to the Lord.
"Ever since I changed my faith in God, my career has been taking off," Desmond said. "I put so much pressure on myself to do it by myself for the first couple of years, and even in the Minor Leagues. I thought I didn't need any help from anybody else. I can do it on my own. Then the weight of it all started overwhelming me. I put my faith in God in my off-the-field life and on-the-field life.
"There is enough to worry about today. I just take it one day at a time. Things have really transformed for me. I'm finally letting my ability play out instead of trying to force things. That's translated into less errors and more free and easy swings on the field. It really has been life changing. That's the only way I can put it."
It also helped that manager Davey Johnson gave him a vote of confidence, telling Desmond that he was going to be his shortstop no matter what happens. For Desmond, it was like the team was giving him a five-year contract. Johnson has often compared Desmond to Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.
"Words are one thing, actions are another. Davey ran me out there every single day until I said, 'Hey, I need a day off,'" Desmond said. "That's what you want. You want to come to the ballpark, you know you are going to be in the lineup, you know where you are going to be hitting, you know you are going to be a crucial part of the game. And Davey gave that to me."
Desmond is also a team leader and is not afraid to speak his mind, according to teammate Dan Haren.
"He has really stepped up, especially with the ups and downs on how the season has gone," said Haren. "He has been leading vocally in the clubhouse and, obviously, on the field. He always likes to come out to the mound and slows things down for the starting pitcher. He can sense when something is going awry, if the pitcher needs a minute. He will run out and say something, whether it's about baseball or something else, to slow the game down." (7/07/13)
HEART AND HUSTLE
In August 2013, Desmond was named the National's recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award. The award was presented by Jim Hannan, the chairman of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association and a former pitcher for the Washington Senators, to recognize Desmond's passion and work ethic on and off the field.
In 2014, Desmond was won the Nationals' Heart and Hustle Award, presented by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association for players who "demonstrate a passion for baseball and best embody the values, spirit and tradition of the game."
He also was Washington's winner of the award in 2010, 2011, and 2013. (7/22/14)
In one of the cooler ways you can ever give anyone an autograph, Desmond did a couple parents a favor and signed their baby. The only other time I have seen this was when Ricky Bobby did this in “Talledega Nights.”
- Ian's biggest accomplishment early in 2014 was that he stopped chewing tobacco during the game for the first time in his life. Desmond made a promise to his mother, Pattie Paradise, early in the day that he would stop dipping. Desmond has been chewing tobacco even since he was a teenager.
"I hate to say this, because I know there will probably be kids that hear this, but for me growing up, it was part of the game." Desmond said. "I'm really trying hard to quit. I kind of decided that it was time. It's not going to be easy. I've been doing it for a long time. It's a terrible habit, but I'm working on it." (4/6/14)
- September 13, 2014: Desmond set a personal milestone in a game against the Mets, as he reached the 20/20 (homers and stolen bases) plateau for the third straight season.
Desmond joins Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, and Alex Rodriguez as the only shortstops in Major League history to go 20/20 at least three times.
- Since joining the Nationals in 2009, Desmond dedicated himself to helping the local youth baseball community, focusing his efforts on reaching out to at-risk youth. Desmond also wants to help more African-American kids learn to love the game of baseball. He is on the board of directors of the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.
The facility, which will include three fields and an 18,000-square-foot athletic and educational building, is located east of the Anacostia River in Ward 7.
Desmond spoke about the responsibility the team and the players have to give back to the community around them, especially the area's youth.
In addition to his work with the youth baseball community, Desmond has been a strong supporter of the Nationals' outreach to the military community—including visiting with wounded veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and in May 2014, Desmond and the Nationals raised awareness for neurofibromatosis (NF), a disease that causes tumors to grow along nerves in the body and effects roughly 1 in 3,000 births worldwide, yet it is not well known by the public and remains largely a mystery to the scientific community. (Ladson - mlb.com - 9/16/14)
2015 Spring Training: Desmond is intent on improving his skills from 2014. He was among the team leaders in homers (24) and RBIs (91). He has had three straight seasons of 20 or more home runs and 20 or more stolen bases.
Desmond also won his third straight Silver Slugger Award, joining Barry Larkin as the only shortstops in National League history to win three in a row. (Ladson - mlb.com - 2/24/15)
In July 2015, Desmond ran into Cal Ripken Jr. in the parking lot at Nationals Park. It was not the first time the two met, but this was a conversation Desmond will never forget.
"It was one of those fluke things, but it was perfect timing," Desmond said. Ripken, who was doing a game for TBS, was aware that Desmond was having the worst season of his career. Desmond's batting average was hovering just over .200, and the Iron Man wanted Desmond to know that he was not alone. Ripken told Desmond that back in 1993, he, too, was mired in a slump, but he managed to get out of it.
Ripken told Desmond: "Through the first 47 games, I was hitting .199, and I finished with a pretty good year. You will be all right."
Desmond's reaction? "That gave me a little bit of hope," he said. "He did it and grinded through it, too. It's kind of the mentality I have, but it's nice to have that reassurance. You never know where it's coming from or who is going to be the person that lifts you up. You have to keep your eyes and ears open all the time." (Ladson - mlb.com - 7/21/15)
For seven years, Ian gave Nationals fans a lot of exciting moments. During a September 27 loss to the Phillies at Nationals Park, the fans returned the favor by giving Desmond a thunderous ovation after he left the game in the top of the ninth inning in what could be his last home game in a Washington uniform.
Desmond became a free agent after the season and most likely will not re-sign with the club. If that's the case, the 30-year-old picked a great game to go out on for the hometown fans. He went 3-for-3 including his 19th home run of the season.
"I really didn't want to lose by seven runs," Desmond said. "At this point, I'm not really into numbers or hits or anything like that. We are out of it. The rest of the stuff is irrelevant."
Desmond was on the field when manager Matt Williams decided to take him out of the game and replace him with Trea Turner. As he went in the dugout, Desmond received hugs from his teammates before he went out for a curtain call.
"That was pretty special. It's bittersweet," Desmond said. "I spent a lot of time here. I have special memories. Certainly, it will among the better ones. I thank the organization and the fans for supporting me and investing their emotions in me the last [seven] years. I appreciate the emotions, whether you cheered for me, loved me, hated me, booed me. Not everyone gets that." (Ladson - mlb.com - 9/27/15)
June 2004: The Expos chose Desmond in the third round, out of Sarasota High School in Florida. He signed for a $430,000 bonus. Russ Bove is the scout who signed him.
January 18, 2013: Desmond and the Nats avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $3.8 million contract for 2013.
January 17, 2014: Ian and the Nationals agreed on a two-year contract, avoiding arbitration.
February 28, 2016: Desmond signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Rangers.
Nov. 3, 2016: Desmond elected free agency.
- December 7, 2016: Desmond signed a five-year, $70 million contract with the Rockies.