Washington Nationals Third Baseman Ryan Zimmerman is known as the “Face of the Franchise.” That makes his wife, Heather Zimmerman, the First Lady of Nats Town.
Heather is a big fan and reader of MattsBats.com, so I was very happy when she agreed to be interviewed for this article. A lot of Washington baseball fans know a little bit about Heather from Twitter, but I wanted to know more about her and to learn what it is like being married to a famous professional baseball player. So here is the first-ever “Matt’s Bats Chat” with Heather Zimmerman.
Matt’s Bats: Hi, Heather. I hope you are enjoying being in Florida for Spring Training. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, like where did you grew up and where did you go to college?
Heather Zimmerman: I was born in DC and grew up in Annandale, VA. I went to college at Radford University in Virginia and studied Journalism. I worked as an Associate Producer for a news show through 2011. Now my full time job is to travel and support Ryan, and help out with his ziMS Foundation (http://zimsfoundation.org/). The ziMS Foundation is run solely by his family and a few volunteers, and this past year, they surpassed the million-dollar mark for money raised for MS research and an eventual cure for MS, which his mother was diagnosed with in 1995 and affects more than 2.1 million people worldwide. I look forward to being involved in finding a cure for the disease by continuing to raise millions of dollars more with the ziMS Foundation!
MB: Being married to a pro baseball player, you must watch a lot of baseball. When did you become a Nats fan? Have you always been a baseball fan? Did you ever play baseball or softball?
HZ: To be honest, I was never been much of a sports fan until Ryan and I started dating. My sister and I never played sports growing up and didn’t have any reason to follow any teams. I would attend Orioles games with friends when I was in high school (before the Nats were around), but had no idea what the rules were, or how baseball was played! How things have changed!
|L-R: Heather’s sister Lindsey Downen (@LRLDownen), Heather Zimmerman (@HeatherZiMS), and friend Tori Hunter (no Twitter, and not the Tigers outfielder either!)
MB: How did you meet Ryan?
HZ: I met Ryan when I first graduated college and came back to the DC area. We had mutual friends and went to a lot of the same places. He and I were just good friends for 4 years or so before we ever dated.
MB: Were you nervous to be dating a famous baseball player?
HZ: I didn’t know anything about sports or baseball, so when I found out who he was, I didn’t really understand or care. He was just a fun person I hung out with, who happened to have a cool job!
MB: Now that you are married to a famous athlete, do people recognize you? Do you like getting attention?
HZ: People don’t really recognize me unless I’m with Ryan, and he doesn’t even get noticed as often as you would think! We both prefer it this way, to be able to go out to dinner or do things around town under the radar. When people do recognize him, it’s usually positive. Mostly just a handshake or words of support about the Nationals!
MB: What is it like seeing a picture of your husband like 100 feet tall on the back of the scoreboard at Nats Park and on TV and in the newspaper?
HZ: I always say I don’t think of it as being him when I see these things. I’m not sure who it is, but it’s not my Ryan. It’s funny. When we are at home, he is in everyday clothes and we are doing things like cooking dinner or doing laundry. The Ryan that gets in a uniform and plays baseball is not the one I’m usually hanging out with! It’s hard to wrap your head around something like seeing your husband’s face on the side of a bus, or on a TV screen.
MB: During the baseball season, Ryan has to travel for about 80 games. What is that like for you? Do you get to go with him?
HZ: It’s an interesting lifestyle for sure, but totally worth it! Once I adapted to the fact that travel is a big part of his professional career, I was excited about it. When we were first dating, I had a full time job, so I was not able to travel on most of the trips. A couple of weekends, here and there, but mostly I was at home when he was on the road. I felt very lucky to be from the area so that I would get to spend time with him whenever the team was in DC, though. Many other wives and girlfriends aren’t local and therefore aren’t in the DC area for the whole season. I had work and all of my friends from home to keep me busy while he was gone, but I definitely missed him. It was very different to be dating someone with this kind of schedule! I did then, and still often now, have to attend events and weddings without him. One of hardest things is explaining these situations to people who are not familiar with the baseball schedule. They often don’t understand that these guys work every weekend and only get about 2 random weekdays off a month. This isn’t a career where you can put in for time off! When I stopped working full time last year, I did start traveling on most of the road trips.
MB: So do you get to ride on the team plane?
HZ: Every team is different with their rules, but families do not ride on the team plane when the Nationals travel during the regular season. We can bus and train with them when they travel that way to certain cities, though. The ladies who are married to or dating the players on the team are great, and we will often book our flights together and meet the guys there, which is just as fun! I’ll tell you something interesting: I am scared of flying, even though it’s a normal part of my life now.
MB: Baseball season can last about 6 months and it seems like Ryan has a very busy schedule during the season. Does that mean you prefer the offseason?
HZ: The offseason is, of course, great, and we like to do a lot of catching up with friends and family that we don’t get to see during very often while he is playing baseball. We also enjoy traveling to other countries and making trips we wouldn’t otherwise have time to do during the season. It makes us appreciate things like having normal dinner and bedtimes – and Friday and Saturday nights free! With that being said, it’s always fun to get geared up again once the season starts, though. Now that I understand the game and have friends on different teams, it’s exciting to attend games everyday and experience what different cities have to offer as far as dining, shopping, nightlife and more!
MB: Have you made friends with other Nationals players and their families? What about people from other teams?
HZ: Definitely! The Nationals are a young team, which makes it easy to make friends, as we are all around the same age and in the same stage of life. Most everyone is very down to earth and fun to spend time with, both at games and outside of baseball. As players and their wives get traded and whatnot, I start to meet people from other teams, as well. I look forward to seeing friends in other cities that I don’t get to see very often and finding out what has been going on in their lives since the last time we hung out!
|Heather, hitting coach Rick Eckstein’s wife Caroline (@MissEckstein), and pitcher Ryan Perry’s fiancee Vanessa Palestino (@VanessaEllie)
MB: Do you like the travel?
HZ: The travel is one of the coolest things about all of it. I don’t spend too much time sitting at my house bored! I love seeing new cities that I might not have ever thought about going to, and seeing the different stadiums.
MB: What is the coolest thing you’ve gotten to do as a girlfriend or wife of a pro baseball player?
HZ: I’ve also met some very cool musicians, actors and other recognizable faces, which, of course, is always fun. I enjoy talking to these people about the different lives they lead. I’m all about learning something new every day! We also get the opportunity to attend a lot of concerts and events that I might not otherwise even think about going to. We just went to the Daytona 500 last weekend, despite knowing nothing about NASCAR. What an interesting and completely different day from anything I’ve ever experienced!
MB: OK, let’s talk about baseball. Are you excited for Opening Day? What are your thoughts about the Nationals this year? Are they going to the World Series?
HZ: I’m very excited for April 1st! Playoffs last year got everyone so pumped up about the Nationals, that the games are now super high energy and fun to watch. I think the best part of baseball is that there is no way to predict how a game will end up. It’s constant action until the last out! I still don’t know enough about baseball to make any educated guesses about how the team will do this year, but of course I believe they can make it to the World Series, after seeing how hard they all work and how close they got last year! I don’t think it hurts that it’s Davey’s last year coaching and he is on a solid mission to take them there!
MB: Does Ryan have any baseball superstitions? Please tell me he changes his underwear after every game!
HZ: Ha ha! Ryan doesn’t really have any superstitions. He just goes out and plays! It’s all he’s done his whole life, so it’s just part of routine at this point.
MB: Do you do anything special to celebrate when he has a big game?
HZ: Every once in a while, we will go out for a nice dinner after a good game, but usually he is so tired that we don’t do too much celebrating during the season!
MB: What do you think Matt’s Bats readers would like to know about you, Heather, that is not baseball-related?
HZ: I love to draw, cook and bake. They relax me. I am a total foodie – I love trying new restaurants and meals.
Also, I took horseback riding and barrel racing lessons growing up and would love to get back into it one day soon!
This will probably jinx me, but I have never broken any bone or had any surgery beyond getting my wisdom teeth out.
MB: One last question: If you and Ryan could have a perfect day in DC together, what would you be doing?
HZ: We might have a slightly different idea of what our perfect day would be. I LOVE living in the DC area and think it has so much to offer! I suppose if we compromised, it would consist of visiting a few museums during the day (Natural History, Air & Space, and Newseum are my favorite), catching a Redskins, Capitals or Wizards game at night, and for dinner, going out with friends to test out one of the new restaurants in the area being opened by a Top Chef from Food Network!
MB: I like the same museums as you! Thank you, Heather, for being my first Matt’s Bats Chat guest! Let Ryan know that I wish him the best of luck during 2013. I know that there are a lot of Nats fans out there wishing him and the rest of the team good luck for the upcoming season.
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I had such a fun time with this interview. I hope you loved learning about Heather. Make sure you follow her on Twitter at @HeatherZiMS!
I’ll be posting another interesting Matt’s Bats Chat very soon. If you have any ideas for future Matt’s Bats Chats or other suggestions for my blog, write to me on Twitter at @MattsBats. You can also email my editors–I mean, parents–at web[@]mattsbats.com. Also let your friends and other Nationals fans know about my blog (www.mattsbats.com) and Twitter or by retweeting me. If you want to receive an email whenever there is a new post you can SUBSCRIBE HERE.
5 years ago on March 4, my grandfather passed away from lung cancer. I remember him and dedicate this post to him.