Mr. National a mentor & mentee at Nats camp

February 25th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jessica Camerato’s Nationals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Employee No. 11 is back at Nationals Spring Training. Ryan Zimmerman has been at the Nats’ complex to help mentor players as well as continue to learn about the game himself. This week, he sat down with reporters to talk all things baseball, including the Nationals' emerging talents who are on track to one day take the same field he called home for his entire career in Washington, D.C.

On his time at Spring Training
“It’s fun being down here, I like it. … My family stayed up there so I can be here all day and really get to start to create relationships with a lot of these guys. I'm hoping to be around more like during the regular season, too, so we'll see how that works out. My kids are a little bit older to the point where I can get away a few days a month and it's not a huge deal. It's nice to be around.”

On expanding baseball knowledge
“I need to learn more of the other side as well. That's kind of my goal this year is to be around and obviously help -- like I’ve helped always with the players -- but learn the other side, learn kind of the ins and outs of running an organization so that I can still help them, but knowing what the other side goes through, too. I mean, I know nothing about that side. So that's kind of my goal this year is to continue doing what I'm doing with the players and especially like the young guys and all that. But also for myself, kind of learn the ins and outs of the other side and kind of become a little bit more knowledgeable so that I can have better suggestions.”

On Sean Doolittle’s new role as pitching strategist
“The game has changed so much analytics-wise and [is] data-driven, which I don't think it's a bad thing. I just think you can't just give a young kid or someone who doesn't understand the analytics a stack of paper on his chair and tell him, ‘Go get them.’ That doesn't mean anything to that kid … You need someone like Sean that can relate to the pitcher. I like to think of that as, it’s almost more like a translator. … I think he's going to be great. Nobody cares more than him, and I think he’s just a perfect fit for that position. I'm kind of excited to see what it grows into. I know that's technically what he's here to do, but I think he's going to end up doing a lot more than just that. I think he's going to be really good.”

On message to Minor League hopefuls
“Baseball is such a sport of every day, grinding it out. You're going to have good weeks, bad weeks. Don't panic. Stay with the same thing. That’s part of spring, that’s part of [what] Minor League seasons [are] -- learning what your routine is. By the time you get to the big leagues, you should have your routine … It’s fun to be around young players that are hungry to get better, to succeed, to make it up to this level.”

On 20-year-old third-base prospect Brady House
“Before I came down here, I saw a lot of videos of him hitting, which is impressive. I think a lot of people forget he was a shortstop, so you see this huge guy and then he's pretty mobile at third. I've been impressed. He’s so athletic, and he just needs to create that routine of, make the routine play, do the same thing every day. He’s got all the tools that you need to be a pretty, pretty good player.”

On trajectory of top prospects through the Minors
“It’s all about development and when you're ready, you're ready. It doesn't matter if you're 18, 19 or 25, 26 [years old]. I'm a big believer in, if you're ready to play, you're ready to play. I think we get into this, every year you move up a level. I think you should have to earn your way up. But if you do earn it and you're ready, I also don't think you should just stay somewhere. … The player development guys, the Minor League guys, I think they do a really good job here. I think with this group, that's what you have to be careful of -- you don't want to just bring them up because the fans want to see all these people that we traded for or drafted. It’s an easy thing to be excited about and do, but I think you’ve got to do it because they're ready. I think it's only fair to them.”