It’s Ryan Zimmerman Weekend in Nationals Park, celebrating the 16-year veteran whose iconic No. 11 is being retired by Washington’s Nationals. Former teammates are in town, joining in the festivities. The ballpark is sold out for today’s ceremony.
The club’s first 1st round pick (in 2005) played his entire career in the nation’s capital, and the Virginian was the face of the franchise throughout most of his career, and was there in 2019 when he and his teammates won it all, claiming the first World Series title by a D.C.-based team since 1924.
“Let’s just say he means a lot to this organization,” manager Davey Martinez said this week, when asked about this weekend’s celebration.
“But he means a lot to D.C. as well. I mean, this guy has been the face of the franchise for a very, very long time. It’s an honor to be a part of his celebration of Saturday. Like I’ve said before, I’ve known him for a long time just because of watching him play from the other side of the field, and now getting a chance to manage him, and doing something special together, which is winning the World Series.
“I feel blessed to actually know him on a personal level. I’m excited about it. We still keep in touch, as you guys know, but I’m excited he gets to have his own day on Saturday, so it will be a lot of fun.”
The list of former teammates back in Nationals Park this weekend is long. Earlier this month, the Nationals’ fifth-year manager talked about why Zimmerman was so popular with players he crossed paths with over his decade and a half in the majors.
“He was awesome,” Martinez explained. “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 with 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.”
Martinez also talked about the role Zimmerman played on 2019’s championship roster, and how though he missed time with injuries, he was a big part of things, and was there in the end, when the only organization he knew as a professional needed him.
“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 was 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, 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.”
Zimmerman and his teammates finally brought the championship to D.C., and as he said at the World Series parade, summing up the feelings of players, fans, and everyone else who has followed the club through the years, “We’re 2019 World Series champs, and nobody can ever take that away from us.”
No one can take it away, and no one can ever wear No. 11 again in D.C.. Enjoy retirement.