Ryan Zimmerman walked off the field in the eighth inning of the season finale unsure of his future, but fans in the nation’s capital let him know how much they appreciated him and all he’s done during his 16-year career with the Washington Nationals. Zimmerman, normally reserved, had an emotional reaction to the show of love from the Nationals Park crowd.
“We’re humans, man, this has been something I’ve done for a long time. I got here when I was 20, and I’m 37 now, so for the better part of my life really, this is what I’ve known and what I’ve done every day,” Zimmerman said when asked about his emotions in the moment after the game.
“We don’t ever plan on that happening, I think it just kind of shows you how much this city means to me, how much this organization means to me. So, I wouldn’t say I was surprised. Ever since I’ve had two daughters I cry all the time anyway. It’s just part of it now. You just own it pretty much is how it works.”
“I can’t speak enough about Zim and what he’s meant to Washington, this organization, to me, teammates, it was a good moment,” manager Davey Martinez said after that game.
Zimmerman has been clear that any decision on potentially playing in a 17th major league season will be made this winter, when he’d normally begin building back up for the start of Spring Training, but there was a lot of talk about what he’s accomplished in his career at the end of the 2021 campaign, and his manager since 2018 was asked for his favorite memories from his own time with the ‘05 1st Round pick in D.C.
“That was pretty cool,” he said of the potential send-off, “... but celebrating the World Series together. He waited a long time for, and him being able to do what he did in ‘19 for us at the end there was truly amazing, but we’ve had so many good memories together, you can’t just really pick just one. But I don’t know what the story is right now.”
Martinez said then that he planned on having dinner with Zimmerman the week after the season ended, though not to press him about 2022.
“I don’t expect him to give me any inclination right now, I think he’s going to go home, work out, and see how his body feels, and then let us know.”
If he is done playing for the Nationals, Zimmerman will (likely?) retire with a .277/.341/.475 career line, 417 doubles, and 284 career home runs.
Though he didn’t know if it would be the last time he played in the majors, Zimmerman took the opportunity to soak it all in, including what could have been his last trip to the ballpark as an active player. .
“I think it obviously carries a little bit different meaning when it could be the last time you come or the last time you come to the field and play baseball,” he said.
“We get to play baseball for a job, I guess, if you want to call it a job.
“Everyone always says don’t take it for granted, and I don’t think we do take it for granted, but sometimes you get caught up in the grind, and you get into the routine and you don’t really realize how cool it is to play baseball for a living. So, you know, those things cross your mind. I think I’m going to be a part of this organization one way or another moving forward, so that made it a little easier. I think your teammates and that part of it is the hardest part.
“Competing and playing baseball and being able to go out and compete at the highest level for the game that you grew up playing is obviously awesome, but I think the guys in the clubhouse, the friendships you make, the camaraderie, the traveling together, those things are what I think I’ll miss most, and guys who have played for a while and retired they say that’s kind of what they miss the most, so yeah, I mean, driving in today, walking in today, you think about that stuff, but I’m pretty lucky to have been able to do it for as long as I have, so it’s hard to have any — feel sorry or anything like that. I think it’s an exciting day.
“My family was here, so if this is the last day it was a hell of a day.”
In a new role in 2021, coming off the bench and backing up for Josh Bell at first, Zimmerman put up a .244/.290/.466 line in the games he did start, and he was 12 for 56 (.214/.224/.411), with five doubles and two home runs as a pinch hitter.
“Well, the production was not surprising,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo said of Zimmerman’s totals at the end of the season. “It was expected of him and of me, and he’s — Ryan Zimmerman has a place on this roster as long as Mike Rizzo is the GM, so whenever he wants to take a major league contract, just call me up and we’ll give him one.”
New hitting coach Darnell Coles, who crossed paths with Zimmerman shortly after Zim was drafted, told reporters after returning to the organization in a new role, that he will do what he can to sell the veteran on the idea of a 17th big league season.
“Watched Ryan Zimmerman when he just signed,” Coles explained, “and then obviously evolved into a world class player and world class person off the field, so my hope is that I can talk him into coming back — I don’t know if that’s possible — but if that’s possible, believe me, that’s on the table, I will try with everything I have, because he is a huge part of this organization, from top-to-bottom, first-class guy, first-class family, he does so much off the field, his presence in the clubhouse is something that is immeasurable, so having him there would go a long way to reassuring that veteran presence that makes a lot of sense when it comes to evolving as a young team.”