WASHINGTON - Ian Desmond shared a story on how far the Nationals came as a franchise and how Ryan Zimmerman played a huge role in that.
Desmond, the former Washington shortstop, recalls a certain Opening Day when he was with the Nationals.
“We were playing the Phillies and they booed us,” Desmond said of the crowd in 2010.
After some rough seasons when Zimmerman first came to the majors, the franchise reached the pinnacle when the Nationals won the World Series in 2019 with Zimmerman as the first baseman.
“The times were tough. Now look where the organization is now,” said Desmond, standing near the first-base dugout of the Nationals prior to Saturday’s game with the Phillies.
Despite a rough 2022, Zimmerman and Desmond both noted Saturday that the Nationals were an annual contender for nearly a decade.
Desmond was among the several former players who returned here to the nation’s capital on Saturday as Zimmerman had his No. 11 retired.
“It is a special moment; I am happy to be a part of it,” said former outfielder Jayson Werth, noting he shared a locker near Zimmerman for seven years.
Daniel Murphy, who traveled from his home in Jacksonville, Florida, came to the Nationals after starring for the New York Mets in the World Series in 2015.
“He was so positive,” Murphy told Federal Baseball on Saturday of Zimmerman. “He enjoyed talking baseball and he brought (work ethic) every day.”
Several members of the Phillies watched the pre-game event honoring Zimmerman from the steps of the third-base dugout at Nationals Park.
“Nobody gets to this point on their own,” Zimmerman said Saturday of the honor.
“It feels like I’m getting ready for a wedding,” he added of the many people who came to Washington this weekend. “It’s a cool opportunity. I was here at the very beginning. It’s humbling; nobody expects this to happen. I miss the game; I don’t miss playing through injuries.”
Born in North Carolina, the Virginia Beach product was drafted in the first round by the Nationals in 2005 out of the University of Virginia.
After a few games at Single-A Savannah (four) and Double-A Harrisburg (63), he was called up to Washington in September of that season.
Zimmerman, 37, hit .277 in a career spent with Washington, with 284 homers and 1061 RBI.
Zimmerman, perhaps not by coincidence, had several big games on June 18 in his career.
On June 18, 2006, he had two hits, including a walk-off homer to beat New York Yankees.
On June 18, 2021, he had two hits in a win over the New York Mets at home.
On June 18, 2011, he hit a homer against the Orioles as Craig Stammen got the win for the Nationals. Stammen was among the former teammates shown on the video scoreboard before the game Saturday with a word of congrats to Zimmerman. Stammen is now with the Padres.
Other former Nationals here on Saturday were Brian Schneider, Danny Espinosa, Gio Gonzalez, Jordy Mercer, and Adam LaRoche.
Desmond and Zimmerman were teammates in Savannah in 2005 and from 2009 to 2015 in Washington.