WASHINGTON -- Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman played in his 1,000th career game Friday night against the Braves. When told about the career milestone a few days ago, Zimmerman didn't think much about it. He pointed out that a lot of players have played in 1,000 games over the years.
But it is a big deal in Washington. Zimmerman is not only the face of the franchise, he is the first player in Nats history to reach that milestone, and there are plenty more games to be played in a Nationals uniform.
"Obviously, the time has gone by quickly. It has been a lot of fun, and hopefully we could play 1,000 more and keep it going," Zimmerman said. "It's one of those things where I feel lucky to play at this level for that long, but in the grand scheme of things, it's really nothing to celebrate. A lot of people have played 1,000 games in the big leagues. I don't think it's a big deal. It's kind of what I'm supposed to do. I'm supposed to show up and play, and that's my job."
And what a job Zimmerman has done for the Nats in the past nine years. Who can forget the walk-off home run against the Yankees on Father's Day in 2006? Or the walk-off homer against the Braves in the first game at Nationals Park in 2008? Zimmerman calls those moments two of his all-time favorites in his career.
It seems hard to believe that Zimmerman has only one Gold Glove on his shelf, from 2009, but it seems like he makes at least one spectacular play at third base every game.
"Any time you look at the face of your franchise, you want it to be the real foundation. I think to be a foundation, you have to be stable, and Ryan is very stable," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "The biggest thing is Ryan is 28 years old. One-thousand games at 28 years old. He may be physically a veteran, but he is still learning. He is only going to get better. To think about that is kind of scary to opposing teams."
Said outfielder Jayson Werth: "For me, Ryan is a solid player, everyday guy, you can count on him. He is going to show up to play every day. He is going to hit third or fourth in the lineup and he is going to produce. Those guys are tough not to like. To the team, he is a pillar. He is a guy that has been around, he is going to be around, he is a leader. He is a guy the young guys can look up to and confide in. As time has gone on, he is more of that."
Maybe the most impressive thing is that Zimmerman is willing to play with injuries. Last year was a case in point. He dealt with right shoulder problems all season long, but managed to play in 145 games and drive in 95 runs before having surgery to fix the shoulder. The shoulder is still not 100 percent, but it hasn't kept Zimmerman out of any games this season.
"If I can help the team, that's what I'm going to do -- go out there and play," Zimmerman said. "I feel good sometimes. I feel bad sometimes. I think people respect guys that go out there and play, whether they are feeling good and bad. That's what I've been taught to do."
While Zimmerman has accomplished a lot on the field, he feels he still has a lot learn about the game.
"Baseball at this level is always evolving, and people are always learning new things. If you are not open to learning new things or working hard, then you are going to get passed," Zimmerman said. "People always told you that when you were growing up, but when you get here and actually get to see it, it's not easy to get to this level, stay here and be successful.
"Just seeing and learning from other guys, whether it's your teammates or it's guys from other teams on how they do things ... you learn a bunch of different stuff. You have to listen, because that one thing could take you to the next level. Learning that at a young age has helped me quite a bit."
Zimmerman believe he has another 10 years left on his big league career and expects to have respectable numbers when it comes to an end.
The night itself was one he'd rather soon forget, as the Nats blew a late lead and Zimmerman had a key throwing error that allowed two runs to score.
"Nobody wants to be remembered for individual things," Zimmerman said. "I want to be remembered for being a guy that played with the same team his whole career. I'm loyal to the fans and city, because they have done so much for me. I think, ultimately, we want to win championships, and I think that is the No. 1 goal. I want win as many championships as I can in the next 10 years and have fun while I'm doing it."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats.