WASHINGTON - For the first time in 15 years, Ryan Zimmerman is not part of the September landscape for the Washington Nationals.
Drafted out of the University of Virginia in June 2005, Zimmerman made his Major League debut just a few months later - on Sept. 1, 2005. He fanned as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning against reliever Jim Brower of the Braves in Atlanta as the Nationals lost 8-7 at Turner Field before an announced crowd of 19,053 fans.
The starting pitchers in that game: Tony Armas of the Nationals against future Hall of Famer John Smoltz of the Braves. Another future Hall of Famer in the game was Atlanta’s Chipper Jones, who started at third base and hit a homer in the last of the first inning. The starting third baseman for the Nationals was Vinny Castilla, who drove in four runs.
The next day, at home against Philadelphia, Zimmerman collected the first hit of his career as he cranked a double in the fifth inning off Vicente Padilla in a loss to the Phillies.
The last time Zimmerman played on Sept. 1, he hit a home run in a win over the Marlins last year at Nationals Park. He drove in two runs in that 9-3 victory.
A month later he helped the Nationals win the World Series for the first time in franchise history. But not before Zimmerman, from Virginia Beach, was part of the Nationals who lost the first four times in the playoffs from 2012 to 2017 after losing at least 100 games on two occasions.
“So you’re really talking about ‘08 to ‘12, so four years of growth for an organization to then be expected to make the playoffs,” he said last season. “And then all of a sudden if you don’t get past the first round of the playoffs, you’re a huge disappointment. So it all happened kind of fast. Which, if you play at this level, that’s kind of the expectations you want. You want your fans to be disappointed if you don’t make the playoffs. But it all happened very fast.”
A product of Kellam High in Virginia Beach, Zimmerman opted out of this season as he cited the recent birth of his third child and the fact his mother has MS.
“I have a 3-week-old baby,” Zimmerman told the Associated Press at the time. “My mother has multiple sclerosis and is super high-risk; if I end up playing, I can pretty much throw out the idea of seeing her until weeks after the season is over.”
Zimmerman turns 36 on Sept. 26. He has not ruled out playing in 2021, as he recently told Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.
“It’s super easy to hit on TV; I don’t understand how I ever missed a hanging slider,” Zimmerman said to Dan Kolko of MASN this week. “I am just kidding. It has been weird to watch the game. I find myself rooting for them so hard when I watch it’s disappointing when they don’t do well. Hopefully, they can get it going like we did last year and get on a roll.”
“I miss the game,” he added. “I miss competing. It is the only thing I have really known the last 20, 25 years of my life. I do really miss it. I miss the daily grind, the competitiveness of it. It has been good for me to get away to realize how much I want to play – hopefully, give it another go next year. This would have been year 16. As long as I still feel I can be productive and help the team win ballgames, I still want to play.”
He has 270 homers in his career, won a Gold Glove at third base in 2009 and has captured two Silver Sluggers and been part of two All-Star games.
And it all began 15 years ago today.