Ryan Zimmerman- Mr. Walkoff (Part 2)
This is the second part in the profile of Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman. Click HERE to read the first part. The first part deals with his life before becoming a major league baseball player. This part deals with his career in Washington from 2006 to now. Enjoy!
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Ryan Zimmerman made his debut with the Washington Nationals off the bench in late 2005. In the 2006 season, third baseman Vinny Castilla was traded to the San Diego Padres, and Zimmerman took the permanent position at third base. A few days into the Nats’ 2006 season, Zimmerman hit a homer off a 93 mph pitch by the Mets’ Billy Wagner. It sailed into the second deck of Shea Stadium, and far into it. It was his first Major League career homer! The Nationals won 9-5 in extra innings.
A walkoff home run– where you win the game in the bottom of the 9th (or extra innings) with a home run–is one of the most exciting things in all of sports. It’s better than a slam dunk or a hole in one. In the one month period from June 18 to July 18, Zimmerman hit 2 of them. June 18 was the first, and the other was on July 4th, with early fireworks coming off Zimmerman’s bat. He kind of became famous not only for the walkoffs, but for the big hits on holidays.
Late in the season, he hit his 20th home run, which tied the Expos/Nationals franchise record for homers hit by a rookie! This was a major accomplishment because the last person to do it, Brad Wilkerson, did it in 2002 (Later, in 2012, Bryce Harper broke the record with 22 homers).
When you think of the Nats’ 2007 season, you think of the old Robert F. Kennedy Stadium and the last year of playing baseball there. But Ryan would think of it “Walkoff, Walkoff, Walkoff” because, well, he hit a lot of walkoffs. By August 2007, he hit a combined 6 walkoff homeruns between his rookie and sophomore seasons. This earned him the nickname in Washington of Mr. Walkoff.
And Zimmerman wasn’t just hitting walkoff homers, he started hitting multiple long balls in the same game. His first was on August 4, 2007, when he hit a solo shot in the fourth inning and a two run homer in the sixth to help the Nats deck the Cards 12-1. Zimmerman also hit a two out, solo homer in the first inning of the 4th of July game. This Virginian (now a Washingtonian) must be a real Patriot to hit the bombs on the 4th of July!
The new year of 2008 brought a new stadium–Nationals Park. Unlike RFK, the former home of the Washington Redskins and where where the D.C. United played soccer, no other sport would be played at the Nats Park. In the ballpark’s debut, in the bottom of the 9th, Zim took a pitch from the Braves’ Peter Moylan and swung. Swung so hard, in fact, that the ball was able to fly to the Red Porch! It was another walk off for Ryan Zimmerman, marking Opening Day of Nationals Park with a huge bang-zoom. The Nationals, who didn’t exist 4 years prior, had a new Face of the Franchise, Ryan Zimmerman! And he was only 23 years old!
The excellence continued in 2009 and 2010. In 2009, Zimmerman was honored by baseball fans across the country by being voted into the All Star Game. He also signed a contract extension through the 2013 season. In 2010, he hit his 100th career homer at Petco Park in San Diego. He also won a Silver Slugger Award for 3rd base.
In 2011, Zimmerman injured his shoulder on April 9 and didn’t play until June 14. But something happened on August 19 that was amazing. Tied with their biggest rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies, with bases loaded, 2 outs and a full count in the bottom of the ninth, Zimmerman took it deep once again. It was a WALKOFF GRAND SALAMI as the submarine horn sounded and fireworks exploded into the night. That may have also sounded the end of the Phillies’ dominance in the NL East.
During the 2012 offseason, Zimmerman signed a mega extension, guaranteeing to keep him a National through 2019 and giving him the option to earn as much as $150 million dollars. That’s a lot of money for playing a game you love! In late April, though, he was placed on the 15-day DL after he hurt his shoulder again when he was diving into home. He got back on May 6th, but wasn’t doing the best job ever, so he got a cortisone injection on June 24 to help him feel better. He suddenly he was the player of the week! He was back to being the old Zim hitting for power in clutch situations and playing amazing defense. It was like he had dustbusters attached to his arms, because he would suck up hard grounders and line drives off the line. But his throwing looked a little off all season, and he made an unusual number of wild throws. Thankfully, Adam LaRoche was on first and was able to pick a lot of them, but something was still a little off. Zim kept playing through the regular season and into the postseason, which was his first appearance in the postseason. No one could keep the Nats’ first-ever first-round draft pick off the field for the NLDS, even if his throwing wasn’t 100%.
After the season ended, Zim had surgery on his shoulder to clean up the injury. He’s rehabbing now into Spring Training and hopefully will be better than new on Opening Day, April 1, 2013.
Ryan Zimmerman earned his title of Mr. Walkoff due to his 8 career walkoff homers. He is the captain of the Nationals team, and will always be the Face of the Franchise as the first-ever Nats player drafted. I think he will stay a National his entire career. I can’t wait to keep watching him play until they retire Number 11 in centerfield.