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Teammates support Zimmerman at annual fundraiser

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Ryan Zimmerman held the second annual ziMS Foundation A Night At The Park 2011 event last night in Nationals Park. (photo © and courtesy of <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/cnichols14" target="new"><strong>Cheryl Nichols @cnichols14.</strong></a>
Ryan Zimmerman held the second annual ziMS Foundation A Night At The Park 2011 event last night in Nationals Park. (photo © and courtesy of Cheryl Nichols @cnichols14.

Despite their return to Washington in the early morning hours on Thursday morning and the rare scheduled off day that greeted them on the calendar, nearly the entire team joined third baseman Ryan Zimmerman at his second annual Night at the Park fundraiser.

The event, headlined by country star Rodney Atkins, raised money for the ziMS Foundation, Zimmernan's nonprofit organization dedicated to the treatment and ultimate cure of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

In fact, eighteen of Zimmerman's teammates attended the function, including Michael Morse, Danny Espinosa, Jayson Werth, Jason Marquis, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Todd Coffey, John Lannan, Adam LaRoche, Pudge Rodriguez, Sean Burnett, Roger Bernadina, Laynce Nix, Brian Bixler, Ryan Mattheus, Collin Balester, Jordan Zimmermann and Alex Cora.

"We have a very close-knit group," Zimmerman said. "We don't get too many off days. I think it shows you what kind of organization we have. As much as talent is important, I think good people are important too and we have a bunch of those on our team."

Nationals reliever Todd Coffey even participated in the live auction, winning a VIP trip to the Masters tournament in Augusta for $2,200.

"He's a teammate and a good friend," said reliever Sean Burnett. "He's a great person and a big part of this organization and this city. I know this hits home for him, so this is a special night."

"Everyone on the team respects him, so obviously we want to support him," added reliever Collin Balester.

Hundreds of guests enjoyed interacting with their favorite Nationals while bidding on unique sports memorabilia. Magician David Blaine entertained the VIP portion of the crowd while Gar Ryness, aka the Batting Stance Guy, served as an emcee for the event.

Country music star Rodney Atkins performed most of his hit singles including Farmer's Daughter, Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy), These Are My People, It's America and If You're Going Through Hell.

Both Atkins and Ryness committed to helping the ziMS Foundation in support of loved ones inflicted with the debilitating disease. Of course, Zimmerman was motivated to launch the foundation because his mother, Cheryl, suffers from MS.

"Obviously, the cause of MS is near and dear to my heart because of my mother, but we've met so many families and so many people that are affected by this disease. To be able to give back is very important," Zimmerman said.

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(photo © and courtesy of Cheryl Nichols @cnichols14.)

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(photo © and courtesy of Cheryl Nichols @cnichols14.)

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(photo © and courtesy of Cheryl Nichols @cnichols14.)

(ed. note - "Kristen is a member of the Host Committee for the ziMS Foundation's second annual Night at the Park fundraiser.")