Sometimes, you don’t know when it’s over. There isn’t a months-long retirement tour or a glitzy sendoff. Sometimes it happens quietly and subtly behind the scenes after much thought and consideration with your family.
For longtime Washington Nationals player Ryan Zimmerman, he enters the offseason unsure what’s next. Sunday could have been the final game of his Major League Baseball career.
“They don’t know, and neither do I, when the last at-bat or last game could be,” Zimmerman said heading into the final homestand of the season in an interview with Dan Kolko. “That’s not me (on taking a victory lap). Even if I did know, which I don’t, I have nothing against people doing it, I don’t feel like I need to be celebrated. Playing baseball and being able to do what I’ve done out here for the last 16 years, that’s good enough for me.”
It feels harsh to say, but Zimmerman, 37, is the epitome of a very good but not great player. During his 1,799 games in the MLB, Zimmerman hit .277 with 284 home runs and 1,061 RBIs. He won a gold glove once for his fielding (2009) and was a two-time Silver Slugger Award (2009, 2010) as the best offensive player at his position. Cooperstown may never come calling.
But Zimmerman’s greatness lies in his steadiness from his first game at RFK in 2005 to his walk-off dingers at Nationals Park – the fancy new home of the team. Zim delivered clutch hits and huge home runs during the Nats’ 2019 World Series run – the city’s first world championship in baseball (in its new reincarnation of the team). Zimmerman was the reliable, steadying presence that made the Nationals what it is now: a respectable and beloved franchise. Despite all the turnover and change over the last two decades, he remained the one constant. He is Mr. National.
All of this sentimentalism was in the air as Zimmerman played his final game of the season on Sunday. As he ambled up the plate for his first at-bat during the bottom of the second inning, Nationals fans rose out of their seats for a powerful standing ovation that left Zim in tears.
It was one of the greatest moments in DC Sports history.