Ryan Zimmerman talks future and retirement at Nationals spring training
One day, he might visit the Nationals’ lower Class A affiliate in Fredericksburg, a short drive from his home in Northern Virginia. Another day, he might stop by the team’s TV or radio booth to see what he’s thinking. The club’s first draft pick spoke to a large group of minor leaguers in the morning on Wednesday, then spent nearly half an hour chatting with a few reporters.
Here are some excerpts from that last conversation. The questions and answers have been slightly edited for clarity.
Q: Do you have any idea what the personal services contract might look like?
A: I have personal home service right now. This is my biggest contract. [He and his wife, Heather, recently welcomed their fourth child.] But I will always be involved in this organization. I think I’ll try a bit of everything. Talking and working with minor league kids. Stay in touch with the big league guys. Talk to coaches. Who knows – maybe do some TV stuff. Just a little over the next few years, kind of trying a bunch of things and seeing if some of them work, if I’m good at some of them and go from there.
Q: Did the national championships that began a rebuild in July help you make your decision to retire?
A: I said when I followed the process, like where is the organization, where is the team, where is the big league team, it was 100% [part of the decision]. … But I think what they did in the last two weeks gave them a chance. I don’t mean to be competitive, because that’s one thing [General Manager Mike Rizzo] has always done. Whatever you want to call it…a rebuild, whatever cool thing to say now, you know, whatever cool thing teams use as an excuse to lose, I’ve known Mike for a long time, and he doesn’t isn’t good at that kind of stuff. They came out and signed Nelson Cruz, you know what I mean? It’s not a bad team. If they stay healthy they have a chance to win a few games I think. You can’t predict the future, obviously. I made my decision before a lot of these things happened. It was part of the decision. I wouldn’t say it was like 100% or anything. I think the biggest part of the decision was: am I willing to put in all the time it takes to stay healthy, be able to produce and display the numbers and get the job done in a way that I somehow hold myself responsible for? In the end, it was rather the tipping point.
Q: Well, you were never a big fan of spring training.
A: No, no, it’s very overrated. This is for pitchers! Spring training is for pitchers – it is. They are the most important people anyway.
Q: But now that you’re here, you itching to get dressed to play?
A: No. Heather asked me last night. She was like, “Was it weird to go out there and not have to take ground balls or hit BP?” I didn’t really know. It was kind of nice, so I think that kind of confirmed my decision for me, which is good. But it’s nice to be there, living in DC so I can go in and out and get some kind of baseball fix. Talk about the game, talk with the coaches. Talking with the minor league kids was amazing, so much fun this morning. … I can get what I need out of it in terms of being involved in the game without having to work my right hip for 45 minutes in the morning to not blow out my left oblique. I don’t miss that kind of stuff. It’s damn good, to be honest with you.
Q: Did the lockout influence your decision to retire?
A: No no no. … I wish we had a lockout every year and missed spring training. That would be great. I’m not talking about a lockout every year. It sounded bad. Or I could have just pulled one [Zack] Greinke and show up on the day you are supposed to show up. I guess I should have. I could have done it every year. He’s a better man than me! … I’m glad it was done. You know, you never want to see this stuff happen. But sometimes it has to happen. There are many things that change every five years; there have been many things that have changed in the last 20 or 30 years that have not been addressed. But at the end of the day, I think everyone just wants to play baseball. The players want to play, the owners want to play, the fans obviously want us to play. It’s never pretty when it happens. But the games will be played and I hope people forget about it. I never understood why they don’t start working on the next one [collective bargaining agreement] now. I feel like we’re still looking back to the previous year and saying, “Oh no, we ran out of time.”
Q: Will you be at the opening?
A: It’s a good question. What day is it? Is it a Thursday? Four hours? Uh…maybe. My daughter practices lacrosse on Thursdays. It’s a good thing too – I can come anytime, I can go see a game, I can take my kids to a game, I can come for BP, I can watch with Riz. I want to see every angle of the game that I’ve never seen before. I feel like there’s so much I can learn in other ways that weren’t available to me. I will have to do something. I am 38 years old. …I need something everyday to keep me going. Not every day these days, I think – Heather would kill me. I need to be home for a bit. But I’m really interested in trying to find out what it is.