Monday, April 20, 2009

Ryan Zimmerman Contract Extension Press Conference

Tuning in late on MASN, Principal Owner Mark Lerner was finishing his opening remarks at this afternoon's Press Conference at Nationals Park. Along with Team President Stan Kasten, both were on hand along with Ryan Zimmerman to announce that Zimmerman had signed a five year contract extension through 2013--estimated at $45 Million Dollars--although no full terms where announced.

Here is the transcript picking up with Mark Lerner, followed by Mr. Kasten and Ryan Zimmerman. Then questions and answers from the assembled media.

With that, here we go:

Mark Lerner

This signing today is the best commitment we can make to help The Washington Nationals become champions. Our family and The Nationals would like to thank Ryan for making that commitment to us today as well. I would also like to welcome and congratulate Ryan’s Mom and Dad (Cheryl & Keith) and we’ve said this before—’you have raised a fine young man.’ This is a great day for The Nationals and a great day for The National Pastime in The Nation’s Capital. And we couldn’t be more delighted to having this young man here with us for a very long time to come.”

Stan Kasten

“Thank you, Mark. I want to say how excited and proud I am today. First of all, I want to publicly thank The Lerner Family, all of them, for their support. This was a complicated, lengthy procedure, but we had the full support of ownership to do these types of things. You’ve heard from Mark, Marla Tanenbaum is here today. Ed Cohen is here, somewhere. Ted is out of town today, but I can assure you he was involved in this every step of the way—deeply involved with this. I want to thank them. I think they should be commended. Let’s remember, at a time when our economy is going through tough times. Our customers are going through tough times. We have been stepping up and doing the right things in the last few months. And continuing to do one right thing after the other—hopefully to complete the puzzle.”

“This is a big thing today, I think. We demonstrate our commitment to building this team the right way. Everyone in this room knows Ryan. I imagine all of you feel about him the same way I do, in terms of the kind of person he is—not just on the field—but off the field. I want to say also, that over the course of negotiations, this was simply not about years and dollars. There is more in this contract that I think deserves to be recognized. There is also a charitable element in it. Every year, Ryan will be making a charitable donation to The Nationals Dream Foundation. Every year, Ryan will be hosting at least one, perhaps more, charitable events in this building (Nationals Park) to represent both The ZIMS Foundation and The Dream Foundation. Ryan has committed to me additional appearances in the community during the season, off-season, to help continue to build our brand and to build the franchise. And we couldn’t be prouder of those types of things.”

“But off the money issues, he and I have also had long talks about what this means in terms of his stability, his role here on the team, and in the city, now since the longevity is no longer in question. And I do think it is time for him to assume the role that we all knew he would grow into someday—that of more of a leader in the clubhouse and on the field—than he even has before. And I think he is ready to do that. A lot of you have referred to him as Face Of The Franchise. And that is something I am uneasy with because it is not fair to a 24 Year Old to call him that. It is also not fair to the other 24 guys in the locker room. I feel strongly we have 25 Faces Of The Franchise. But there is no question that his profile is higher—at least it has been so far—than any other player. He is a kid that wears that designation well. We are proud to have him in that position and I couldn’t be happier to have gotten this done today. So with that, I will turn it over to Ryan Zimmerman.”

Ryan Zimmerman

“I think this is an exciting day. It kind of a culmination of about three or four years of conversation and to finally have it done, I think, speaks volumes of The Lerner’s and the entire ownership group. We’ve come a long ways to kind of make this happen. There is no other place I would rather be. And I think that’s the part of it, the biggest decision to do this is that this is where I want to be for a long time. What they have done is start an organization that is going in the right direction. They’ve put together some of the key pieces now and can start to build around that—kind of want to have that sense of accomplishment. I started here at Ground Zero when they first came in and they have sort of built a team. Hopefully, in the near future we will be one of those teams that are in the playoff picture every year. I really think that is the way we are going. To have me, Adam (Dunn), The Kid starting today that is, I guess—The Zimmermann!!—You could call him (Jordan—Stan Kasten busting out laughing) now if you want. I guess I am the Other Guy now. But they have done a great job of getting young talent. They have drafted well. They are not only getting great players but also great people, and I think that speaks to the kind of people The Lerner’s are. It’s a family atmosphere and there is nowhere else I would like to be.”

“My family has done a great job. I don’t think I would be where I am without them. They couldn’t make it today, but they are here all the time. Like I said, I think they have done a pretty good job—some people might disagree—but they raised a pretty good guy—I think. This is not only a great accomplishment for me, but them as well. I couldn’t be happier. I am excited to get this thing going and turnaround this season and get out there and play. It’s exciting that this is all done with and we can just concentrate on baseball.”

Question: You had put this deadline of April 6th about stopping negotiations. Why did you decide to keep going?

Ryan: “For the most part, I think it was not done, but we had pretty completed all the hard stuff. So, it was just a matter of doing some things—which I didn’t think would distract the team or myself—playing.”

Stan: “For the record, let me get him off the hook. (Thank you!!—Ryan) we basically did have the deal done before Opening Day. In fact, there was a whole 15 minutes before the first pitch. So, the last two weeks have been about paperwork and physicals and things like that. But we basically did get it done in time. Besides, he had a deadline but Brodie (Van Wagenen—his agent) didn’t. So we were just fine.”

Question: Ryan: this signing was not something you were ever worried about were you?

Ryan: “No, I worry about playing baseball. Like I said the whole time, I don’t think its fair for me to worry about my own situation when there are 24 other guys in there that want to win and want to be apart of something great like I do. It’s kind of selfish for me to talk to you guys about this all the time. And that was the whole reason for getting it done, as I don’t see it as being fair to those guys. I am glad we could do it and I am glad it is done. We don’t have to worry about it anymore.”

Question: Stan--Jim Bowden’s departure changed the person who was talking to Brodie all the time. Describe the transition there and what was it like to pick things up at the very beginning of March?

Stan: “Well, I don’t know if that was of any great significance. We’ve been talking off and on for two years. As the landscape changed, obviously numbers and positions evolved as well. I have certainly been up to date on most things—not everything but most things up until that point. And when there was this brief gap after the change came, I started talking to Brodie. It just seemed to me that with enough effort we could get it done. So there wasn’t any particular, no loss of time, and there wasn’t any particular learning curve. It kind of happened organically. It just happened. It was just moving in the right direction.”

Question: Ryan—some of the things that Stan alluded to in recent months, going after Teixeira, getting Dunn, Beimel—the Florida Guys that got added—to what degree did that convince you or change your mind, or however you would phrase it—to do?

Ryan: “I have been convinced they have been on the right path for a long time. This is where I was drafted. It’s where I want to play. It’s obviously a great city for me growing up and going to school close to here. It’s great for my family. I think it would be pretty cool if you get drafted by a team and get to play there your entire career. You don’t see that throughout many peoples careers anymore. I really enjoy playing in this city and for the people of this city. So I have faith in The Lerner’s and the ownership group that they are going to continue to bring people in and get this team to where it needs to be. I think this off-season was a huge success. They kind of went out and showed what they are willing to do. That gave a lot of people confidence. Adam comes here. Beimel comes here. Nobody that can choose where they want to go just decides to go there just because they can go. Obviously, they have the same feelings as us and it’s exciting.”

Question: How comfortable are you with being a leader in the clubhouse. Is that something you will have to change in your personality?

Ryan: “Well, I am getting a lot older (laughing). No, as Stan said before, it wasn’t unfair. I never felt pressure from it. To have that type of tag put on you at a rather young age—it’s easy to go out and play, I don’t mind that—but in a Big League Locker Room, a Big League Clubhouse, when you are 21 Years Old, it’s hard to go up to or say something to a guy at first that has six or seven years in the league and is 8 or 9 years older than you. It’s a little intimidating at first. But as I have played and got the respect of all my teammates-and that’s the biggest thing—it doesn’t really matter how old you are as long as you can get the respect of your teammates and everyone around you. You can then say whatever you want.”

Question: Ryan—do you thing this contract can help inspire some of the other local talent?

Ryan: “Yeah. This is obviously something that I have worked on very hard for. And they don’t come easy. I am very lucky to be where I am, and at the same time, I have worked my whole life for this. Hopefully, it will inspire kids to do the right things and good things—not just baseball—in the community—and ultimately be good people.”

Question: Ryan—Baseball is filled with a million different types of pressure. Does this take one kind of pressure off?

Ryan: “If you want to look at it that way, like you said baseball has pressure on the field. It is a job, obviously, so there is pressure there—money related. But for me, I have never really thought about it—the money kind of way. I have just enjoyed playing the game. I love playing baseball and hopefully that will inspire others more just money and dollar signs—or anything like that.”

Question: Ryan, do you thing this will inspire other Major League Free Agents, like Adam Dunn this year, to make a statement that The Lerner’s are going to make a big statement here in DC?

Ryan: “Yes, and just having good people on your team helps out a lot too. Nobody wants to go out and play on a team that full of people nobody wants to hang around. Or wants to show up on the field an ignore people. Adam knew me. He knew Austin and he knew a couple of other guys. He knew this would be an enjoyable two years or however long he is going to be here. I think that is more important than anything is getting these good people that are good teammates. And us being able to talk to a free agent. And that’s a tribute to The Lerner Family and how they pick and who they want to be around.”

Question: For Stan—is there any reason that you can point to as to why this didn’t get done before arbitration?

Stan: “Unlike a lot of people, I don’t think Ryan or we ever felt a crushing time frame pressure. I think we always assumed, even if it didn’t get done this year, it was going to get done next year or the year after. I think we always felt that. For whatever reason, it didn’t get done then. I can’t tell you that and I can’t tell you why it did get done the day it did. But I never felt he wasn’t going to be here long term. And he and I have talked and I don’t think he ever felt that either. So, I don’t have a real scientific answer for you.”

Question: Any significance to five years?

Stan: “I will say this about the negotiations. It didn’t end up where it started. There were about 1000 permutations that crossed the table over the last three years. And this was the final combination that did it. No, there was not any magic. In fact, the very last permutation happened quite at the end. A day before we finally agreed, I couldn’t tell you for sure that’s what the final result would have been. Negotiations have a momentum and they go until both sides finally feel comfortable—feel it’s right—and that’s all.”

With that final answer, the press conference concluded.

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