WASHINGTON — On Saturday, Washington Nationals slugger Ryan Zimmerman became the all-time leader in home runs by a D.C. baseball player, hitting No. 238 to tie the game in the third inning. In the seventh, he started to pad his lead with No. 239:
The home runs moved him past D.C. sports legend, former Washington Senators slugger Frank “Hondo” Howard for the most in D.C. baseball history. For the record, Howard couldn’t be happier.
“Ryan Zimmerman — this guy is something very special. I’ve met him three or four times, and you don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to know this guy is the ultimate professional, the pro’s pro,” Howard told the team. “Besides his outstanding athletic ability, he carries himself with dignity on and off the field. He has tremendous presence, and he is class personified.”
He continued, predicting that Zimmerman was far from done.
“If he continues putting these kinds of numbers up for another six, eight, 10 years, this young man is going to walk into Cooperstown, New York, and into Baseball’s Hall of Fame,” he said of Zimmerman. “He is the epitome of what organizations look for in their personnel: quiet, unassuming, but the aura about him is one of dignity and class. You want to know how I feel about it? Nobody is happier for him than me. The sky is the limit.”
That’s high praise from one D.C. sports icon to another. But Zimmerman wasn’t done with his record-setting weekend.
On Sunday, he hit a solo home run in the seventh inning of the first game of the double header, giving him his 905th career RBI. This mark tied Tim Wallach for the most RBI in Nationals/Expos franchise history. He had four RBIs in the game.
No word yet on if Wallach, a coach with the Miami Marlins, will be as effusive in his praise of Zimmerman.
“He broke the record and topped it one. Next step is 250, I guess,” manager Dusty Baker told the media. “It couldn’t happen to a better person or a better player, and he certainly deserves it.”
The key to Zimmerman’s success is longevity, as he has played each of his 13 MLB seasons in D.C. While teammates like Bryce Harper are on pace to break both of these records, he would need to re-sign in Washington, something that is far from certain at this point.
Regardless, nothing should be taken away from Zimmerman, who has been a consistent performer for bad, rebuilding, and excellent Nats teams.