Zimmerman receives ovation in Nats' finale

October 4th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- The magnitude of competing 16 seasons in the same uniform resonated around Nationals Park early Sunday evening when an emotional Ryan Zimmerman walked off the field for what could be his final Major League appearance.

Between the seventh and eighth innings, the 37-year-old Zimmerman embraced manager Dave Martinez and teammates while acknowledging the roaring crowd after playing his 1,799th career game in the 2021 season finale, a 7-5 loss to the Red Sox.

“I think it just kind of shows you how much this city means to me, how much the organization means to me,” Zimmerman said. “I wouldn’t say I was surprised [by the emotions during the game] -- ever since I’ve had two daughters, I cry all the time anyways.”

Zimmerman does not plan to make a decision about returning for a 17th season until this winter. He said he was split 50-50 entering this year, and that percentage has not changed. A factor that could tip the scales would be spending more time with his family as his children grow up.

“Do I want to keep playing? I think I can keep playing,” Zimmerman said. “I think I had a really good year with the role that I was supposed to do. Now it’s a decision of whether I want to keep doing that or do I want to be around my family a little bit more.”

In spite of the uncertainty, Zimmerman decided it would be good to ask for a moment to thank the fans -- just in case. It turns out, Martinez already had something planned during Sunday’s game.

“Because I’m not sure, really, I didn’t want to make a big deal out of something,” Zimmerman said, adding, “But I wanted to do it for the fans and for the people in this stadium. Obviously, I have a special connection with this fanbase and the community. In talking with [my wife] Heather last night, I think if I do retire this offseason or I didn’t do anything today, I would have regretted it.”

If the 37-year-old first baseman does choose to play, he would have a spot on the Nationals.

"Ryan Zimmerman has a place on this roster as a player as long as Mike Rizzo is the GM,” general manager Mike Rizzo said before the game. “So whenever he wants to take a Major League contract, just call me up and we'll give him one."

A packed stadium that has watched Zimmerman emerge from being the Nats’ first Draft pick in 2005 to the face of the franchise didn’t hold back in showing its appreciation. The roaring ovations began during the starting lineup introductions and carried over to each of his at-bats.

Zimmerman tipped his batting helmet in recognition in his first plate appearance and then went to work. He finished the game 0-for-3 with an RBI walk. Zimmerman even assisted in a rundown to catch Alex Verdugo between first and second base and helped eliminate a Red Sox double in the fourth inning.

“I think it obviously carries a little bit different meaning when it could be the last time you come to the field and play baseball,” Zimmerman said. “We get to play baseball for a job, I guess if you want to call it a job. Everyone always says, ‘Don’t take it for granted.’ I don’t think we do take it for granted, but sometimes you get caught up in the grind and you get into the routine and you don’t really realize how cool it is to play baseball for a living. So those things cross your mind. I think I’m going to be part of this organization, one way or the other, moving forward. So that made it a little bit easier.”

Zimmerman thrived in a part-time role this season, backing up Josh Bell at first base. He was able to stay healthy and appeared in 110 games, the most since 2017. Zimmerman finished the season batting .243 with 14 home runs, 62 hits and 27 runs scored.

Over his All-Star career, Zimmerman has skyrocketed to the top of team (2005-present) and franchise (including the Expos) leaderboards. He is the franchise leader in games played, at-bats, plate appearances, runs, hits, singles, doubles, home runs, extra-base hits, total bases and RBIs, among other categories. Additionally, Zimmerman tops Nats history in offensive WAR, walks, outs made and win probability added (WPA).

“I’m pretty lucky to have been able to do it for as long as I have,” Zimmerman said. “So it’s hard to feel sorry or anything like that. I think it’s an exciting day, my family was there. If this is the last day, it was a hell of a day.”

The uncertainty of Zimmerman’s future was at the forefront of a season finale that highlighted Major League careers both beginning and concluding. Right-handed starter Joan Adon tied Reynaldo Lopez for second-most strikeouts (nine) in Nats history in a big league debut, behind only Stephen Strasburg (10). He was caught by retiring backstopper Alex Avila, who collected a two-run RBI double in the final game of his 13-year career.