WASHINGTON -- Fifteen seasons in, the firsts keep coming for Ryan Zimmerman, connecting the years of his one-of-a-kind career. No one has been a National longer than Zimmerman -- in many ways, the original National -- and few are cherishing this Fall Classic moment more.
First, he was the franchise’s first Draft pick after its move to Washington, No. 4 overall in the 2005 Draft. Then, he was the first to so many milestones. Over the years, there has been no shortage of signature moments for the franchise’s leader in hits, homers, doubles, RBIs and total bases. Zimmerman’s World Series debut immediately provided another, as he hit the first Series homer in club history by taking Gerrit Cole deep in a 5-4, Game 1 win in Houston.
Are more in store as the series shifts to Washington?
“That was an incredible moment,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “To be the first guy who we all consider as the captain and who's waited a lot of years to be in this spot, this moment, for him to obviously hit that first home run for us and get us going, you should have seen our dugout. It was electric when he did that. And I'll admit that I got teary-eyed for him.”
In the Nationals’ view, this magic October run -- however it ends -- is, in part, a karmic payoff for Zimmerman, the homegrown star who stayed. As they relish it, let’s take a look back at four other milestones that didn’t exist until Zimmerman claimed them.
June 7, 2005
MLB Draft: Zimmerman becomes Nationals’ first draft choice
Having moved from Montreal to Washington a few months prior, the Nationals were looking for an identity. They found a face of the franchise in local product Zimmerman, the Virginia Beach native who starred at the University of Virginia. The Draft was loaded that year; Justin Upton and Alex Gordon went first and second, and Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki and Andrew McCutchen all went in the top 11 picks. Zimmerman debuted before all of them, later that year at age 20.
March 30, 2008
Opening Day vs. Atlanta: Zimmerman hits walk-off homer in first game at Nationals Park
Three years later, Zimmerman helped open Nationals Park in style. The first game played at the ballpark ended in a 3-2 win over the Braves, thanks to Zimmerman’s walk-off homer off Peter Moylan. He’d make his first of two All-Star teams the following year.
Oct. 8, 2012
NLDS Game 2 vs. St. Louis: Zimmerman hits first postseason HR in Nats history
In their eighth season of existence, and after five last-places finishes, the Nationals won the National League East in 2012. Zimmerman was the heart of an offense that also featured 19-year-old Bryce Harper, All-Star Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. The franchise’s first postseason homer came in its second playoff game, when Zimmerman took Lance Lynn deep at Busch Stadium. But the Nats would lose the game, 12-4, and eventually the series in five.
Oct. 22, 2019
World Series Game 1 vs. Houston: Zimmerman hits first HR in Nats World Series history
Flash forward to the present day, and the memory of this one is still fresh. Zimmerman played 1,689 games before his first Fall Classic appearance, the active record before this week. He celebrated by greeting Cole with a Statcast-projected 413-foot shot that Martinez called “a bomb.”
“It was an unbelievable feeling,” Martinez said. “We sat there and we had a moment together where he goes, ‘That was incredible.’ And I said, ‘Well, don't stop now, you know, keep going.' … He said, ‘Oh, no, this is going to be a lot of fun.’”