Nats’ Ryan Zimmerman retires

Ryan Zimmerman, the first player drafted by the Washington Nationals when they moved to D.C. in 2005, has retired.

“We have won together, lost together, and, honestly, grown up together,” Zimmerman told D.C. fans in a statement signed “Employee No. 11” – for his uniform number – and issued by his agents.

He holds franchise records in home runs, hits, doubles, runs, RBI and games played.

“When we first met I was a 20-year-old kid fresh out of the University of Virginia,” Zimmerman, 37, said in his statement.

He also thanked the Lerner family and Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo: “To play on one team for 17 years takes many sacrifices from both sides. I appreciate all that you did for me and my famly, and I can’t wait to be involved – in many ways – moving forward.

Zimmerman told all his managers and coaches, “You may not always get the recognition you deserve, but the players know your value,” and to his teammates, “You guys are what I will miss most about the game of baseball.”

That’s how he felt in 2021, when he was about to take the field again after skipping the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season. “I think that’s what I missed the most, not being around the guys,” Zimmerman told WTOP’s Dave Preston. “Not having it for four months really made me realize how much I do love it.”

Just before the 2019 World Series that made the Nationals world champions, Zimmerman told Preston, “Playing in the big leagues for this long, you consider yourself lucky. To be able to do it with one team and one organization, being involved in the community and have friends that I’ve met that I’ll be friends with far longer than I’ll play baseball — it’s a pretty cool situation.”

‘Face of the Franchise’

“Ryan will forever be Mr. National,” team owner Mike Lerner said in a statement Tuesday. “From the walk-off home runs, to carrying the World Series Trophy down Constitution Avenue, to the final day of the 2021 regular season when our fans gave him an ovation that none of us will soon forget, Ryan gave us all 17 years of amazing memories. We wish him, Heather, their four beautiful children and the rest of their family nothing but the best in all of their future endeavors.”

Rizzo added, “For 17 seasons, Ryan Zimmerman epitomized what it meant to be the Face of the Franchise. … Ryan always carried himself with class, honor and respect and played the game for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back.”

Manager Dave Martinez said, “It was truly an honor to manage and share a clubhouse with Ryan Zimmerman.” The manager said he first encountered Zimmerman as an opponent, but after coming to D.C., came to know him as a friend.

“He was a fierce competitor, but also a calming presence when we needed it most,” Martinez said.” Ryan’s numbers and accomplishments speak for themselves, but the way he led by example and was respected not only in our clubhouse but around the game — that is what I will remember most about his career.”

In 16 seasons, Zimmerman made the All-Star team twice, and a Gold Glove. He had 11 career walk-off home runs, tied for seventh-most in major league history. He hit safely in 10 of the 16 games in the Nationals’ 2019 world championship run, the team said.

His career batting average was .277; he hit 284 home runs and played 1,799 career games.

In 2006, the team said, Zimmerman founded the ziMS Foundation, to benefit people with multiple sclerosis. It’s raised $3.5 million, the Nats said. And in April 2020, he and his wife, Heather, founded the Pros for Heroes COVID-19 Relief Fund, supporting health care professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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