Ryan Zimmerman, also known as Mr. National and Employee #11, will have his jersey retired this weekend for the second time this spring.
After 16 seasons with the Washington Nationals and three at the University of Virginia, Ryan Zimmerman’s number eleven will never be worn again by a member of either team. There will be an official jersey retirement ceremony for Zimmerman at 3:10pm ahead of Washington's game against the Phillies on Saturday. Zimmerman is the first Cavalier and National to have his jersey retired.
Zimmerman's time in Charlottesville was foundational in the construction of the UVA baseball program. He set the single-season program record for hits two years in a row, with 90 hits in 2004 and 92 in 2005. While those records have since been broken, Zimmerman’s name comes up frequently in the record books. He finished his UVA career with a .355 average, good for fifth all time at Virginia. His 250 career hits is eighth on the all-time list, which is impressive considering he only played at Virginia for three seasons.
Zimmerman earned First-Team All ACC honors in 2004 and then was Second-Team All-ACC in 2005. He achieved national recognition as a Baseball America Second-Team All-American and a NCBWA Third-Team All-American in 2005, and then was drafted fourth overall by the Washington Nationals in 2005.
In his 16 professional seasons, Zimmerman finished with a .277 career average with 1,846 hits, 284 home runs, 963 runs, and 1061 RBI. He was a two-time All Star in 2009 and 2017 and he won both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger in 2009 and a second Silver Slugger in 2010. Playing an entire career for one team is rare, and it means Zimmerman has climbed to the top of the record books for many categories. He is the franchise record holder for hits, total bases, doubles, home runs, runs, and RBI. Zimmerman’s 11-career walk off home runs are memories that long-time Nationals fans hold dear, especially the one in 2008 in the first game ever played at Nationals Park.
Of course, the highlight of Zimmerman’s career was winning the World Series in 2019. In the wild card game against the Brewers, Zimmerman hit a broken bat pinch hit single in the bottom of the eighth with two outs to extend the inning, ultimately leading to a bases-clearing and go-ahead single from Juan Soto. In game four of the Divisional Series against the Dodgers, Zimmerman hit a three-run homer in front of his home crowd to extend the Nationals’ lead and force a decisive game five. A home run off of Zimmerman’s bat was the first run the Nationals scored in the World Series against the Astros, a full circle moment for the team’s first-ever draft pick.
Zimmerman fought with this team through 100-loss seasons and mentored the young players through those tough times. Watching the pure joy on his face after winning it all was incredible, and there is no one more deserving than him. While it is clear Ryan Zimmerman left his mark on the field at both the collegiate and professional levels, he also made an impact on the people around him.
On a warm Saturday afternoon in late April this year, Ryan Zimmerman and his family made the trip to Charlottesville during a weekend series against rival Virginia Tech. The Wahoo faithful gave him a warm welcome and the packed Disharoon Park was able to hear just a few words of wisdom from Zimmerman himself and watch the jersey retirement ceremony. After throwing out the first pitch, Zimmerman spoke about his love for UVA and Charlottesville, as well as the joys of college baseball. He urged the players in both dugouts to appreciate the moments they were living, and cherish the game of college baseball.
Zimmerman is lauded for being a true team leader. When he chooses to speak, the entire room listens. The respect he has earned comes from his play on the field and his demeanor off of it, but also all of the work he has done in the D.C. community.
In 2011, Zimmerman won the Lou Gehrig award, given to the MLB player whose character best exemplifies the character of Lou Gehrig. Zimmerman’s philanthropic legacy comes in the form of the ziMS Foundation, which works towards treatment for people with Multiple Sclerosis. The foundation has raised millions of dollars for MS research and treatment through fundraising events. Zimmerman has even used Nationals Park for “A Night at the Park,” an annual event for his foundation.
Ryan Zimmerman combined talent with intelligence and dedication to sustain a successful career and leave a mark on two of the cities he’s been able to call home. Now, those two teams are giving him one of the highest honors in sports: a jersey number retirement.