DENVER -- The fact Ryan Zimmerman started at first base on his 37th birthday numerically exemplifies the discipline and dedication he has applied to his 16-year Major League career.
Zimmerman went 2-for-4 with his 15th double of the season in the Nationals’ 3-1 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field, becoming the first Nats player to start on his 37th birthday (or older) since Jayson Werth in 2017.
“It’s hard to play at this level, whether you’re 37, 21, 27,” Zimmerman said. “It doesn’t matter what age I am -- I think you owe it to the game, you owe it to your organization, you work hard and you try to produce and try to be able to be out there whenever you’re asked to and contribute and help the team win. That’s kind of the way I’ve looked at it my entire career.”
Long before Zimmerman was putting in work to become an All-Star infielder and the longest-tenured player in Nationals team history, he spent hours on different turfs: front yards and fairways.
Growing up in Virginia Beach, Va., -- less than four hours south of Washington, D.C., where he would become the Nats’ first ever Draft pick in 2005 -- Zimmerman picked up jobs cutting grass around the neighborhood.
From there, he landed a job with his friends at Hell’s Point Golf Club during high school. They’d work after classes and on the weekends, driving carts and gathering up golf balls. The job provided him with spending money -- around $200-$250 every two weeks -- and also taught him the value of gaining workplace experience as a teenager.
“Not having to ask my parents for everything was nice,” Zimmerman said. “They never said anything, but I’m sure they enjoyed me having it. I think getting a job and learning how to work with other people, if you were supposed to be there, you had to be there, I think it’s good.”
Fast forward to 2021, and Zimmerman has played in 1,795 regular season games while climbing atop numerous team (2005-present) and franchise (including the Expos) leaderboards. Zimmerman reiterated on Tuesday he will wait until the offseason to decide about returning for a 17th season.
“I don’t want to make a decision on anything before I really have closure on it,” Zimmerman said. “The last thing I would want to do is say I don’t want to come back, and then come December, I’m sitting at home and talking with my family and realizing I do want to come back. I just think there’s no real rush.”
In the meantime, manager Dave Martinez would like for Zimmerman to play in at least one game in the final series of the season this weekend at Nationals Park.
“He works hard, he prepares himself well every day,” Martinez said. “When you get a good, healthy Zim, he can wow you every day. … He’s done well, and I really believe that he can still play.”
The Nationals had a birthday cake celebration to commemorate Zimmerman’s special day. It was a visual reminder of how far hard work can take a player into his career.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play for a long time,” Zimmerman said. “But I do put the work in, just like all these other guys do. The guys before me kind of taught me how to do it. Hopefully some of us older guys are sort of teaching these young guys how to do it, and that’s the beauty of the game.”