Nationals lifer Ryan Zimmerman retires

Franchise icon ends 16-year career: 'Ryan will forever be Mr. National'

February 15th, 2022

WASHINGTON -- The face of the Nationals has retired. 

Ryan Zimmerman made the announcement Tuesday on Twitter following a storied 16-season career, all with Washington, with a letter that begins “Dear D.C.” and is signed by “Employee No. 11.”  

“We have won together, lost together and, honestly, grown up together,” Zimmerman wrote. “We lost 100 games (twice), we won 90 games (four times), we moved into a new stadium, we failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs (four grueling times) and, of course, we experienced the magical World Series run of 2019 that no one will ever forget. Through all of the achievements and the failures you always supported me, and for that I will forever be grateful.”

Selected fourth overall in the 2005 MLB Draft out of the University of Virginia, Zimmerman -- a Virginia Beach native -- was the first Draft pick the Nats made after the franchise moved from Montreal to Washington.

Zimmerman, who turned 37 last September, ranks first in Nationals/Expos franchise history in a number of categories, including games (1,799), hits (1,846), home runs (284), doubles (417), RBIs (1,061), runs scored (963) and total bases (3,159). He concludes his Major League playing career with a .277/.341/.475 slash line and an .816 OPS.

“On behalf of my family and the entire Washington Nationals organization, we would like to congratulate Ryan on a tremendous career and thank him for his contributions both on the field and in our community,” Nationals managing principal owner Mark D. Lerner said. “Ryan will forever be Mr. National. From the walk-off home runs, to carrying the World Series Trophy down Constitution Avenue, to the final day of the 2021 regular season when our fans gave him an ovation that none of us will soon forget, Ryan gave us all 17 years of amazing memories. We wish him, Heather, their four beautiful children and the rest of their family nothing but the best in all of their future endeavors.”

Zimmerman’s path to the Nationals was fast-tracked, with just 67 games in the Minor Leagues at Low-A and Double-A before he made his Major League debut on Sept. 1, 2005. The following season, he finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year Award race behind the Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez, earning 101 points to Ramirez’s 105. Zimmerman’s impressive performance in his age-21 season included 20 home runs, 110 RBIs and a 17-game hitting streak.

When the Nats opened Nationals Park in 2008, it was Zimmerman who clubbed the ballpark's first homer, a walk-off blast on Opening Day against the Braves. It was the first of 11 career walk-off home runs.

“For 17 seasons, Ryan Zimmerman epitomized what it meant to be the Face of the Franchise,” Nationals president of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo said. “He was an All-Star, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner, Comeback Player of the Year and World Series champion -- but those accolades pale in comparison to his impact on our organization and in the community during his career.

"Ryan always carried himself with class, honor and respect and played the game for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. I want to personally congratulate Ryan on a fantastic career and wish him and the entire Zimmerman family all the best in retirement.”

Zimmerman hit .284 with 179 homers, 666 RBIs and an .827 OPS from 2006-13, winning back-to-back Silver Slugger Awards, a Gold Glove Award and his first All-Star nod in that span, before injuries began to mount. Initially a third baseman, he ended up moving across the diamond to become Washington’s starting first baseman in 2015.

He had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, earning his second All-Star selection and finishing with a personal-best 36 homers and a .930 OPS over 144 games.

Zimmerman played just 137 games across the next two seasons but was healthy for the 2019 postseason as the Nationals made a run to their first World Series championship. In his first plate appearance of the Fall Classic, he took Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole deep for the Nationals' first World Series home run, which he described as “almost floating around the bases.”

“We’ve come a long way as an organization, as a city,” Zimmerman said in a postgame interview on FOX Sports after Game 7. “World Series champions. Can’t take it away, ever, ever. No one can take it away from you.”

After electing not to play during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Zimmerman signed a one-year deal to return to the Nationals in 2021 as the backup first baseman. He thrived in a part-time role, slashing .243/.286/.471 with 14 homers in 110 games.

“It was truly an honor to manage and share a clubhouse with Ryan Zimmerman,” said Nationals manager Dave Martinez. “Like many around Major League Baseball, I had a lot of respect for Ryan from watching the way he played and competed as an opponent. It wasn’t until I came to Washington that I learned of his true impact on this organization, the fans and the community. He was a fierce competitor but also a calming presence when we needed it most.

"Ryan's numbers and accomplishments speak for themselves, but the way he led by example and was respected not only in our clubhouse but around the game -- that is what I will remember most about his career. Not only was he a player I enjoyed managing, but he’s also become a great friend.”

Facing the uncertainty of his future in a Nationals uniform, fans gave Zimmerman a warm and emotional sendoff during the team's final game of the season on Oct. 3 against the Red Sox at Nationals Park, moving him to tears with a standing ovation before his first at-bat. The Nationals offered him a chance to return, with Rizzo stating, “Ryan Zimmerman has a place on this roster as a player as long as Mike Rizzo is the GM, so whenever he wants to take a Major League contract, just call me up and we'll give him one."

Zimmerman said, at the time, he would weigh his options of returning for another season and spending time with his growing family (he and his wife, Heather, welcomed son Benjamin in January).

“I am so excited to have the ability to be around a lot more, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for each of you,” Zimmerman penned to his four children in his retirement note. “If you work hard and make good choices, your opportunities are endless!”

Zimmerman’s impact on the Nationals and the community will still be felt in his retirement. He set a standard of professionalism and productivity for young players to follow in his footsteps. Zimmerman is also involved in several charitable organizations, including the zIMS Foundation dedicated to the treatment and ultimate cure of multiple sclerosis, which has raised $3.5 million. Additionally, he and Heather founded the Pros for Heroes COVID-19 Relief Fund to help health care professionals, and he was selected as the Nationals’ Roberto Clemente Award nominee six times. 

“Although my baseball career has come to an end, my family and I will continue to be heavily involved in the DMV community,” Zimmerman wrote in his announcement. “You have given so much to us over the past 17 years; it is now time for us to give back to you. We look forward to continuing many of our community programs and starting new ones in the future. Our kids will be raised here, as this is now our home, and we couldn’t be more excited.

“So this is not a goodbye but more of a ‘see you around.’”