Thursday, March 13, 2008

Our Conversation With Ryan Zimmerman

Great fielder, clutch hitter and just 23 years old. What more can you possibly say about Our Franchise Player? Ryan Zimmerman is a God Send to Our Washington Nationals. From the very first games he ever donned a Major League Uniform--consistently--he has been Our Best Player. A quality talent that was cheated out The Rookie of The Year Award in 2006 and deserved far better last year in the awarding of Gold Gloves. Sure, I am partial--but how could ANYONE not pick Ryan over Hanley Ramirez and David Wright, respectively? Our Number 11 is a Big Time Player. Not one Third Baseman in the game--charges in for a bunt or tracks a foul ball down the left field line quite like Ryan Zimmerman. He has Outstanding Instincts--and appears fearless at the plate. For the admission price, Our Number 11 is worth the ticket cost alone. He is that special. Hopefully, Ryan Zimmerman will complete a long and wonderful career as A Washington National. He brings all the right characteristics to the ballpark--each and every day.

Since our first meeting, Ryan Zimmerman has been very kind to The African Queen and I. He always has something nice to say and enjoys our back and forth chats. He is very personable. When we approached him at Spring Training in Viera last month--he promised to make time for us--while we were there. Sure enough, Our Number 11 is a Man Of His Words--as he grabbed Sohna and I one day after practice and kindly answered all our questions.

With that--here we go. And I didn't even have to ask the first question.

“I am really excited about our team. I believe we have a good chance to be real good. It’s a lot better this year. Everyone is really comfortable with each other and that final month of last season—gave us a lot of confidence.”

The power that has been added to this team—has to be nice to see? (SBF)

“One through eight (in the batting order)--pretty much--we have guys that can do some damage. This is really the first year in which we have an established Big Leaguer at every position. They all know what has to be done to get ready. Having had success at the Big League level makes it more comforting for everyone else around us.”

Yes, the atmosphere is very positive around camp. (SBF)

“Yes, definitely. And I think one year under Manny (Acta) too has helped. The first year with a new coach you don’t really know what to expect. How he is going to be. Last year, he made all of us so comfortable to play for. We come out, get our work done and that’s all he expects—which is great. We come out here, workout hard for a couple of hours and we know that’s all we have to do.”

In the field—what are you working on to improve your skills? (SBF)

“Each year, I do pretty much the same thing. The biggest thing is to cut down on my mental mistakes that I made last year, the throwing errors—things like that. But, I feel good and I am happy where I am at (in his career).”

Yeah, I was talking to Barry Larkin about you the other day and he says you are one of the finest young fielders he’s seen in a long time and all you need now is more experience. (SBF)

“Yes, that’s true. Sometimes at third base I rush some stuff. Whether I am fielding a ball or throwing—I sometimes have a lot more time than I think I do. That’s a BIG THING for me this year. I need to take my time, not make as many off balance throws (both of us chuckling) and things like that. (Still smiling) They are fun and exciting to execute, but those plays don’t always workout (everyone busting out laughing).

But, when you charge in for those tappers and bunts—you’re darn good at that. (SBF)

“Well, that’s necessary, but it’s those others. (Like when you think too much—SBF) Yeah, (nodding his head up and down, smirking) those!!” (Good Laugh)

What is it like to see Nick Johnson back out here? (The African Queen) You played with him in 2006 and you know what he is capable of? (SBF)

“It’s very comforting. It was very tough playing without him last season. Everyone knows Dmitri (Young) did a great job (last year) and we now have two very good players at first base. In fact, we have two very good players at a lot of positions. But, the competition is good. Nick looks GREAT! He came back in shape and ready to go. He is out to prove to everyone he can still play this game at a high standard. And with the amount of work he has put in the past two years—he will be justly rewarded. That, I have no doubt.”

Is Spring Training still fresh for you? Or has it become a six-week drag? (SBF)

(You could tell Ryan was thinking how to answer this properly) “Its not a drag, but it’s very long. I don’t know about other people, but everyone gets ready in a different period of time. But, I don’t think I need the entire time to get ready. After a couple of weeks and a few At-Bats, 50 or 60 At-Bats—then I am ready. At the end (of Spring Training) you just want it to end and begin playing real games that count. Although, after the time off (over winter) it’s good to get back and see the guys again and hang out with some of the younger guys as well.”

I understand Manny will be giving you some breaks during the exhibition schedule? (SBF)

“Yes, it’s a long season and when you get into September, sometimes fatigue can set in. So, Manny’s going to give me some breathers over the next few weeks, to help me stay strong throughout the upcoming season.” (The reason Sohna and I are not too worried about Zimmeman's current Hip Flexor problem)

You had a terrific Rookie Season--Year Two was your adjustment year. The other teams and pitchers now know you and you—to an extent—know them. At times, you struggled last year. What did you learn from those pitchers adjusting to you? (SBF)

“Yeah, that’s the biggest difference (between the two seasons). I think the second season has to be your hardest year in the game. The first year, no one really knows what you do well or what you might do badly. They learn your weaknesses and during the second year attack those weaknesses. And EVERYONE (in the game) seems to know them (almost thinking, unbelievably, how bad news travels fast). Now, it’s my turn to adjust to them. I learned a lot more last season, especially on hitting—than I did my first year—and about just playing the game and what to expect from other teams.”

“So this, my third year, is when I kind of feel totally comfortable and know what I need to do to succeed and get ready. It’s a good feeling to have—relaxed.”

Speaking of relaxed—the team (The Nationals) promotes you as their Franchise Player. You seem comfortable with that? (SBF)

“Hey, that’s what people say, but we have a ton of people on this team that are leaders and could be Franchise Players. It’s just that I was lucky enough to be born close (to Washington, in Virginia) and young. (Laughing—all of us) That’s really the only thing that I got going for me.”

Oh come on—that’s pretty self-deprecating. (SBF)

“Yeah, I know.” (Still laughing) But, I enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun. And that’s a part of the pressure to being a younger guy that gets a shot in the Big Leagues and has some early success. Now, everyone expects you to do it for 20 years.”

What's it feel like not to have Brian Schneider and Ryan Church around? (The African Queen)

“Well, its very different. Schneider was our leader. The catcher is always the leader of the team. Church and me were pretty close. We lived together my first year. I guess that’s just a part of the game. Of course—we will get to see them quite a bit (with The Mets). We play them something like 18 times. So, we will have plenty of time to hang out.”

It may be a part of the game, but The Nationals didn’t just give them away. (SBF)

“Yes, at the same time—we got a great young player (Lastings Milledge) back for him. It’s one of those times where it truly is what it is.”

And, you are fully recovered from your off-season hand surgery? (The African Queen)

“Definitely.” (Fully Recovered? --SBF) Yes, I just need to get the strength back by working out. If I had to go out there today—I would be perfectly fine.”

We couldn’t go away without asking you about your contract situation? (SBF)

“No matter what, I am here four more years. Very rarely, but more and more—you see young guys signing contracts. Before the last four or five years it never happened. So, it’s very healthy to talk about it (with The Nationals and his Agent). The relationship between me, Stan (Kasten), Jim (Bowden), The Lerners and my agent (Brodie Van Wagenen) is fine. There is no frustration or tension between either side. It’s good to start talking now. We can develop a conversation now—see what each side thinks—and maybe—when we are all really ready to get down to do business—I will already be past step one.”

That’s a good point. Ever since these talks became public—there is this perception of “Me” against “Them”. I don’t sense that in you. (SBF)

“It’s not like that at all, but at the same time it is always “Me” against “Them”. For them to give a deal right now, we (Ryan and his Agent) would have to take a bargain, because they would be doing something not normal. They would be giving a young player a lot of guaranteed money and for us—we would be taking a risk—if I have a couple of good years—I might be losing some money. There is a risk and reward and you have to deal with it. We shall see what happens. If not, so be it. I am a 23 Year Old Single Guy. I think I will do all right on my minimum salary (everyone chuckling). I don’t really splurge or do much. I am not a big spender.”

(Laughing) “You’re not exactly making $8.95 per hour, either” (SBF)

(Smiling and enjoying the give and take) “Believe me, I am not complaining by any means with the amount of salary I make. (A fun moment)”

But, you are happy now? (The African Queen)

“Oh, I LOVE IT HERE!! (In Washington) I don’t want to go anyplace else (to play). That’s the thing about all this (negotiations). They (The Nationals) don’t have to rush either. I am here for four more years—no matter what. If I have to go through the system (Arbitration/Negotiations)—that’s fine with me. Nobody’s feelings are going to be hurt. Its just a part of the game.”

Its nice to hear there is no angst. (SBF)

“No, none at all. There is no tension. There is no frustration—nothing. Its all good. Really.”

With that--Our Conversation With Ryan Zimmerman concluded. It was picture time. Over the past three seasons--Sohna and I have enjoyed seeing this young man grow into one fine adult. "Z" is professional, confident and just a decent fellow. We think highly of him--both and on and off the field of play. May Ryan Zimmerman play his ENTIRE CAREER as a member of Our Washington Nationals. Nothing would please us more--outside of a World Series Championship for Our Nation's Capital.

Come On Zimmy!! (A very famous Section 320 Chant--thanks to MsZimmy and The African Queen. Of course you have to hear the squeaky voices bellowing that out--to understand the humor of that comment)


mike edgar said...

It's obvious to me that Ryan Zimmerman is a special player, and the Nationals must recognize this, as well. He truly could and should be DC's Cal Ripken. It's a pleasure rooting for the guy, and any team that he's on. I hope never to see him at Nationals Park in another team's uniform.

Anonymous said...

Hey SBF, nice work as always. I was wondering if you knew something...there's a "Nats Fans 10" banner to the right of the scoreboard on one of the parking garages...can you tell us what that means?

Screech's Best Friend said...

"Nats Fans 10"--10th Man on the Field. Just a way of showing support to those that attend games rooting for Washington.

Robert said...

Zimm is a player with his head on straight. I like what Mike Edgar said about him being our Cal Ripkin. That is an analogy I like.

SenatorNat said...

I like the fact that he enjoys hanging around "with some of the younger guys," at age 23! (When Billy and Sonny played for the George Allen Skins, they liked hanging around with the younger guys at training camp, too, but the younger guys they meant were in their 30's...)

He is our Cal, Jr. for sure, but with the plus of being a Wahoo, to boot. Hopefully, his third season will be outstanding, and just as importantly, he will remain injury-free. This team is beginning to get snake-bitten with injuries - WM Pena the latest and his could linger for the entire season. Hope not.

Trust in Old Vir-gin-i-a. All Good.

Chuck B. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chuck B. said...

Thank God he's not an obnoxious Hokie. I can at least handle him being a Cav.

Go Terps!