- The Washington Times
Monday, April 20, 2020

Watching old home movies is way more fun when family and friends are there to ad-lib, trade jibes and liven up the narration.

Just ask Ryan Zimmerman and the Washington Nationals.

Zimmerman, his teammates and coaches got together online recently to relive last season’s World Series-winning Game 7, livestreaming their reactions as a replay of the game was broadcast on a local station. The longtime Nationals first baseman listened as manager Dave Martinez and bench coach Chip Hale went through key decisions. He cracked up over how Max Scherzer — in typical Scherzer fashion — got so wrapped up in watching his performance, he stopped paying attention to the video call.

More so, Zimmerman said he appreciated the overall atmosphere, saying he was glad fans got to see the interactions and chemistry of his teammates and coaches.

“That’s literally what it was like for us every day,” Zimmerman said, “minus the six or seven bourbons that I had.”

The Nationals’ trip down memory lane was to help the Zimmermans’ “Pros for Heroes” charity campaign, which has raised more than $300,000 in less than a week to assist health care workers battling the coronavirus pandemic. Launched by Zimmerman and his wife, Heather, the campaign quickly upped their goal from $250,000 to $500,000 because of the rapid support.

The stream of Game 7 itself raised more than $200,000.

Over the past week, the Zimmermans have been on video calls with hospital workers throughout the region, thanking nurses, doctors and others for their efforts. Zimmerman said he’s grateful for the support from other athletes around the District, noting Wizards star John Wall tweeted at him looking to get involved. Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom and former Nationals star Anthony Rendon have made donations, as well.

The effort has helped Zimmerman stay busy with MLB’s season indefinitely suspended.

Like other major leaguers, the 35-year-old has had to adapt to not being at the ballpark every day. It’s a reality that Heather Zimmerman hasn’t gotten used to either. Instead of her husband being gone for most of the year, she’s now seeing Zimmerman cook “gourmet” meals every night and help take care of their two kids. They’re also binge-watching shows like “Tiger King” and “Downton Abbey.”

But Zimmerman is still preparing for the possibility that at some point, he’ll be called into work again. The two-time All-Star has been vocal in his opposition to an MLB proposal that called for all games to be played in Arizona in an isolated environment. 

Too many variables, he says, to make it feasible. Zimmerman wondered what would happen to players like him whose spouses are expecting. With their third child due in June, would he be allowed to leave to go see them and come back?

On Monday, Zimmerman was asked how the players would find a consensus about what works best when they may have different priorities from athlete to athlete.

“Everyone wants entertainment and sports back in our lives,” he said. “There’s no question that the athletes want to play, no question that fans want to watch. What is optimistic is how quickly we came to an agreement about kind of the stuff once the season was postponed as far as pay structure … It kind of shows you in times like this, we can come together a little bit quicker, I think.

“We all know how people are struggling and what it would mean to have sports back.”

Zimmerman said it’d “be brutal” to play without fans, but acknowledged that “realistically” it’s likely going to happen — if that’s what it takes to get baseball to return.

But if that happens, it has dawned on Zimmerman that it could be well over a year until the Nationals get to have a true ring ceremony at Nationals Park to celebrate their World Series. He was reminded of it further Sunday when he watched ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” the 10-part documentary of Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls.

During the documentary, there’s a scene when Jordan and his teammates hang the banner of their fifth championship prior to the 1997-98 season and are given their rings in front of thousands of screaming fans.

“I was like, ‘Man, that’d be nice to do right now,’” Zimmerman said. “Who knows? Maybe it’ll make it better. People are going to be anticipating this day for so long and be so happy that sports are back and so happy that they’re allowed to come out to a stadium and support their team, that … it might even be better.

“But it’s tough. That’s what you look forward to.”


Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.