On the first day of Spring Training in West Palm Beach, FL this year, Davey Martinez talked to reporters in person and on a Zoom call about his initial reaction when he learned his first baseman for his first four years on the bench in Washington, D.C. Ryan Zimmerman, called it a career and stepped away from the Nationals and the game over the winter.
“Personally I’m going to miss Ryan a lot,” Martinez said.
“We’ve had some unbelievable conversations over the years. He’s a phenomenal person, not just on the baseball field but off.”
“He was that silent captain. I always looked up to him,” Martinez added.
“I always loved talking to him about just life in general, so I’m definitely going to miss him.”
With Employee No. 11 back in D.C. later this month, with Ryan Zimmerman Weekend coming to Nationals Park from June 17-19 on the homestand, and a long list of former teammates on the way to celebrate with him, Martinez was asked why the 16-year veteran was so well-liked by his fellow players over the years.
“He was awesome,” Martinez summed it up. “We had many, many conversations, some about baseball, some not about baseball, but this guy was always there, he’s always there for his teammates, always there for his coaching staff, for the trainers, didn’t matter. This guy was a consummate professional. As you know, he got the nickname ‘Captain’ for a reason. Not very vocal, per se, but when he spoke it was very subtle, his message got across to everybody in the clubhouse, but the way he carried himself on the field and off the field, it’s a great representation of what we’re trying to get our young players to do here, right now, but he’s — I’ve always said he’s one of the guys that I’ve missed most. He was always great to have conversations after the games, he would always check in on me when things weren’t going so well, but we’ve had an unbelievable relationship together. And even now, where he’s not a player for the Nationals, but I do consider him a close friend.”
When you win a World Series together, as Zimmerman and Martinez did in 2019, there’s, all involved will say, a bond which lasts. And though Zimmerman played in just 52 games in the regular season in ‘19, as he dealt with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, he returned in time to help down the stretch and in the postseason run, going 14 for 55 (.255/.317/.418) with three doubles and two HRs for the champs.
“He was the constant,” Martinez said. “Whether he was playing or not, he was in there, he was working out, he was getting ready, he was trying to come back, but he was always in the dugout with us, and like I said, he was the guy who constantly there when something needed to be said in the clubhouse, I relied on him to relay the message, and he did it well. But as you know, we get to the playoffs, he was a huge part of it. He had some big hits for us. Especially getting us going.
“The first game [of the World Series], we weren’t hitting, and he comes up and hits a home run in a big moment, and it seemed like that loosened up everybody.”