Ryan Zimmerman: Young Talent (Part 1)

This is the first in a 2-part series about Nationals All-Star 3rd baseman Ryan Zimmerman. This part focuses on his life and career before the major leagues.  The second part (hopefully tomorrow) will talk about his major league career.  I hope you like it Nats fans!
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Every team has its own star.  But there is something extra special about the Nationals’ Face of the Franchise, Ryan Zimmerman.  He has always been a Washington National!  So many players move around from team to team, even the star players who could be the face of those franchises– Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder are some recent examples.   But no matter what, Ryan Zimmerman has always been and probably always be a National.  He has played for the Nats his whole career and last year signed an extension which may keep him a Nat for the rest of his career.  And even when he retires from playing baseball, he’ll always be rooting for the Nats, because it’s his hometown team.  So let’s learn a little bit about how he became a National.

Zimmerman was born on September 28, 1985, in Washington.  No, not Washington, D.C., but Washington, N.C.  He grew up in Virginia Beach, and played on the same little league team as B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, David Wright and Mark Reynolds. That team had so much talent!

In 1995, when Ryan was 10, his mom, Cheryl, got the disease Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and she had to use a wheelchair since 2000. It must’ve been hard for him because his mom couldn’t do things all the other kids’ moms could. I bet he had a lot of play dates so his mom could relax.  He started a charity called ziMS to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis. You can learn more about it HERE.   This shows he can step up to the plate, wherever and whenever he needs to.

He enrolled at the University of Virginia and was a starting shortstop for the Virginia Cavaliers. He was not the third baseman because his former little league teammate Mark Reynolds already took that position. In 2004, he helped win the World University Baseball Championship in Tainan City, Taiwan for team USA.  Next year, he did get something better than gold…. He was the first draft pick for the…Washington Nationals!

“Who are the Nationals?” you may have thought when Zimmerman got drafted in 2005. That was the year the Expos moved from Montreal to Washington and became the Nationals.  He was the first player ever drafted by the Nationals franchise. Later that year, he got his start on the Savannah Sand Gnats, then the Nats A-ball team (it’s now affiliated with the Mets), and quickly moved to the Harrisburg Senators. He got called up late in the season in 2005 and wore jersey number 25.  (Most people think Zim always wore number 11, but not in 2005!)  In his first MLB at-bat, he hit a double.  Zimmerman did not start at 3B that year, but he did the next year. 

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Tomorrow, I’ll write more about Zim’s rookie season and how he became the Nats’ “Mr. Walkoff” and “Face of the Franchise.”  But first, I wanted to tell you a little bit more about Ryan’s personal life.

Heather, Ryan and Miley Zimmerman from Heather’s twitter.

He recently got married to a girl named Heather and went on a safari in Africa for his honeymoon.  Their dog is named Miley probably after Miley Cyrus.

Heather also raises money for charity, which shows that they are both generous.  Click HERE for her website for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.  I donated a little bit of money to help with her goals. It’s good to raise money for cancer because scientists are looking for a way to help people not get cancer anymore.  My grandfather passed away in 2008 from cancer, and so I raise money for lung cancer research every November.

Picture of Ryan Zimmerman on his honeymoon by Allan Peterson (@ambp77)

I follow Heather on Twitter and she follows me, but Ryan is not on Twitter.  I think most Nats fans on Twitter think he should join, too. Some of his teammates like Ian Desmond, Ross Detwiler, Bryce Harper, Denard Span, and others should convince him because there are lots of fun things to read about and interact with fans and players. 

Ryan and Heather live near Washington all year round, which is unusual because most players have a house in Florida or Arizona or California or wherever they’re from in the offseason.  They recently went to a Washington Capitals game and sometimes go out for dinner in DC.  I’ve never seen them just out in DC, but it would be a great surprise to run into them at CVS or something.

About a month ago, when I was interviewed by the Red Porch Report (click HERE to read it), they asked me which of the Nationals players I would like to have as a teacher.  My answer was Ryan Zimmerman because:

he seems patient and trustworthy.   He takes his job very seriously.  He is a good leader.  A good teacher can also laugh and make jokes.  I’ve seen him be funny sometimes when he throws bubble gum or sunflower seeds at the other players.  A good teacher would be proud when the kids get a hard answer right, and that’s kind of like what Ryan Zimmerman does when he high fives his teammates after a home run.  Zimmerman also went to a good college, UVA.

I think a lot of people agree with that.

I have only met Ryan Zimmerman once.  It was during the Nats winter caravan in 2010.  It was really snowing that day and the bus was late.  I got autographs from Tyler Clippard, Nyjer Morgan, Matt Capps, Jason Marquis and Craig Stammen.  And I got my picture taken with Josh Willingham and Ryan Zimmerman.  I just had stitches and I remember that everyone thought it was cool that I got stitches. 

For a while, I brought the picture to every game to try to get Josh and Ryan to sign it.  I finally got Josh Willingham’s autograph, but I was never able to get Ryan Zimmerman’s autograph because I think he doesn’t like to sign autographs because too many people would crowd around him and try to get one too.  He is one of the few current players on the Nationals whose autograph I have never gotten (Werth, Span, Suzuki, LaRoche are a few others I can think of).

Now you have an introduction to Ryan Zimmerman’s pre-MLB career and personal life.  Tomorrow, you can read about his superstar MLB career.  Stay tuned and remember to IGNITE YOUR MATT-ITUDE!

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