Nationals great Zimmerman pictures his birthplace

Published 6:54 pm Wednesday, August 16, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. — When Ryan Zimmerman comes up to bat for the Washington Nationals, the scoreboard tells the tens of thousands of fans where he’s born: Washington, N.C.

Even though he was born in the “little” Washington, he knows infinitely more about the “big” Washington. The 32-year-old Nationals first baseman was the team’s first-ever draft pick — first round, fourth overall — when the team moved to the nation’s capital from Montreal in 2005.

The two-time all star has spent his entire career with the Nationals. After being born in Washington, Zimmerman only spent a few years of his youth in the eastern North Carolina area. His family lived in Plymouth and Edenton before moving to Virginia Beach when he was still young.

It was in Edenton, though, that Zimmerman was first introduced to baseball. It’s one of a handful of memories he still holds from the area.

“I was so young. I don’t remember much,” he said. “I remember playing T-ball there. We lived in a house that had a cornfield in the back. In the winter, obviously there was no corn, and there was a Pizza Hut across the field. That’s basically the extent of what I remember from the area.”

Eventually, Zimmerman’s baseball career came full circle in a sense. Years after smacking a stationary ball off of a tee, he returned to the area to play the Coastal Plain League’s Edenton Steamers during his college summers.

Zimmerman said it’s hard to recall much more from the early portions of his childhood. He’s never visited Washington, although he can imagine what the small town on the Pamlico River might be like.

“I’ve been lucky. Growing up in Virginia Beach — Sandbridge, basically where I grew up — is, I’d say, a similar feel to the Outer Banks,” Zimmerman said. “It’s not quite as small-town as that was. I moved away, but I didn’t get too far away from the same stuff, I guess you could say. I just remember the people there being so nice.”

The people is one of the things his father, Keith Zimmerman, said he misses most about the area, too.

Zimmerman’s life has been a whirlwind even back to high school. He was a multi-sport athlete growing up, so he was always out playing something. From there, he went to play for Virginia — one of the country’s most prestigious college-baseball programs — and then the MLB.

When his career does come to a close, which he hopes is still a while away, Zimmerman hopes to come visit the place where he was born.

“Once I’m done playing and have a little bit more free time, I’d love to go back just to check it out. I think it’d be pretty cool,” Zimmerman said. “… Baseball has kept me pretty busy. You don’t really start thinking about that kind of stuff until you’re a little bit older and appreciate kind of how you grew up and have interest in that stuff.”

Zimmerman is entering that portion of his life and career. About a month shy of his 33rd birthday, he knows he’s on the back half of his baseball career. A lot changed in the eight years that separated his 2009 and 2017 all-star seasons. Among those changes has been marrying his wife, Heather, in 2013, and having two daughters with her.

It’s given Zimmerman an appreciation for spending his career in one place, which is a rare occurrence these days. Maturity lends itself to that gratefulness. So, too, does Zimmerman’s upbringing. The little time he spent in eastern North Carolina, and then growing up in a somewhat similar community, also helps him value it. D.C. isn’t a small community by any means, but living there for so long has allowed Zimmerman become so much more than a beloved baseball player.

“The way I was brought up, my family — and our extended family, as well — has always been, I wouldn’t say really, really close, but my cousins, we keep in touch,” he said. “The way I grew up, we were always visiting family. I definitely appreciate being with the same organization and seeing the same people from front office people to people that work in the stadium. … I’ve known some of those people for a decade now, which is crazy to think of.”

In many ways, he’s a cornerstone of the community. From being the foundation of the Nationals for over a decade to his multiple-sclerosis research ziMS Foundation, Zimmerman has brought the family-like characteristics of his birthplace to the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C.