This walk-off is a not a goodbye, but Ryan Zimmerman announces his retirement as a player today!

Photo by Marlene Koenig for TalkNats

We knew this day was going to come eventually. But today’s announcement seemed to whip down Half Street as a bit of a surprise that Ryan Zimmerman picked this day to announce his retirement as a player. On Sunday October 3, 2021, he cried, and we cried as the fans gave him a long standing ovation as Zim waved to the crowd. He claimed he would not make a decision on his future until at least December. He repeatedly said he did not know if he would come back for another season or retire. In subsequent interviews, his words might have been taken out of context, and some fans were convinced he would return if there was a designated hitter. Yet, today he made it official.

The kid from Virginia played his entire pro career in the Washington Nationals’ organization. As the team’s first draft pick in 2005, he actually debuted that September with only a couple of months in the minor leagues. He quickly became a fan favorite, and earned the nicknames of Mr. National, Mr. Walk-Off, and the Face Of The Franchise — and one that he gave himself — Employee #11. His first jersey was #25 in 2005, and in the next 16 years, he would don that familiar #11 jersey.

With 16 seasons, 1799 regular season games, two All-Star appearances, a Gold Glove, two Silver Sluggers,  and one World Series ring to show for it all, Zimmerman has had quite the career. With more ups than downs, he and his wife, Heather, and their four children will have some time as a family to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Plus he still has a lengthy personal services contract with the team that will pay him millions more. So expect Zim to be around the ballpark in the future — just in a different capacity.

In all, the man with 11 walk-0ff home runs is in great company with an elite group of walk-off heroes in the top-10 all-time for walk-off home runs. Jim Thome has 13 walk-off home runs followed by Jimmie FoxxMickey MantleStan MusialAlbert PujolsFrank Robinson (Zim’s 1st manager), and Babe Ruth all have 12 walk-off home runs, and Zim is tied with David Ortiz and Tony Perez with 11 walk-off home runs. With Ortiz making the Hall-0f-Fame this year, and Pujols a sure lock 1st ballot pick, Mr. Walk-Off finds himself among baseball royalty in that club with a group of all Hall of Famers. He infamously would say about those walk-offs that the pressure was on the pitcher.

While Zim’s 284 career home runs are not near the elite of the game, the timing of his home runs sure made him a star. His World Series home run came at a time when his team needed a boost, already down 2-0, in the top of the second inning in Game 1 of the World Series, Zim blasted a 413 foot shot to centerfield off Gerrit Cole in Houston to put his team on the board — in a game the Nats eventually won.

“On behalf of my family and the entire Washington Nationals organization, we would like to congratulate Ryan on a tremendous career and thank him for his contributions both on the field and in our community,” principal owner Mark Lerner wrote. “Ryan will forever be Mr. National. From the walk-off home runs, to carrying the World Series Trophy down Constitution Avenue, to the final day of the 2021 regular season when our fans gave him an ovation that none of us will soon forget, Ryan gave us all 17 years of amazing memories. We wish him, Heather, their four beautiful children and the rest of their family nothing but the best in all of their future endeavors.”

Even with that World Series ring, Zim wasn’t ready to go out on top and he planned to come back for the 2020 season, but with the COVID pandemic in full-swing, he opted out of the season. He then returned for 2021 in a diminished role that he accepted. His career kind of ended as it started for a team that was far from ready to compete for a World Series ring. Zim used to say you play the game to win. He saw the writing on the wall, and the current lock-out might have sealed it for him.

A game of inches, bounces, and split-seconds. A game of luck and a game of skill.

“In the playoffs, you have to get a couple lucky bounces,” said  Zimmerman before the 2019 postseason. “I’ve seen it the other way where the other team gets a couple lucky bounces go their way. It’s a wacky game.”

It sure is nice when things bounce your way. Enjoy retirement Zim!

“So this is not a goodbye but more of a see you around,” Zimmerman wrote in his retirement letter.

His jersey will be retired, and Employee #11 walks-off his way.


He is known as Mr. Walk-off; Original artwork photo courtesy of Andrew Lang

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