leaned on a wall outside of the
' clubhouse Thursday morning before his team hosted the
Asked about the need for security in the cut-throat world of pro sports, the Kellam High School graduate from Virginia Beach responded with an analogy to the NFL.
"The ultimate franchise guy just got let go by his team," Zimmerman said of former Colts quarterback
, who had parted ways with Indianapolis the day before. "It shows (pro sports) is a business."
Zimmerman, the All-Star third baseman for the Nationals, certainly won't have to worry about changing teams anytime soon — if ever. In late February he signed a six-year contract extension for a reported $100 million that should keep him in the nation's capital through 2019.
Soon after that, Zimmerman heard from former youth travel club teammate
, a graduate of First Colonial High who played with Zimmerman on the Tidewater
"I asked him for some money," said Reynolds with a laugh before a spring training game with the Orioles in Sarasota, Fla.
The Washington contract is good news off the field for a player who grew up in Virginia Beach, used to spend his offseasons at a place near his parents' home there and now has a townhouse just minutes from Nationals Park in Arlington.
"I have a good situation and I have been very lucky," said 27-year-old Zimmerman. "I love this city. The ownership of the Lerners is a great family."
Reynolds, who also played with Zimmerman at the
, said big-league players want to win, but they also want security.
"I wanted to stay with the Diamondbacks," said Reynolds, who was traded by the D-backs to the Orioles before the 2011 season.
Zimmerman was drafted in the first round by the Nationals out of U.Va. in 2005. He made his major-league debut at the end of 2005 and has been a regular at third base for Washington since.
Already the face of the franchise, Zimmerman was asked if he has any long-term goals — on and off the field for his career in the nation's capital.
"Not really. You just go out and play. You can't let that (contract) change the way you go about your business," said Zimmerman about two hours before hitting a homer to right in the bottom of the first off Houston pitcher and former teammate
That approach is echoed by
, the executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager of the Nationals.
"He is the same person. He takes care of business. He has a professional approach," Rizzo said.
Zimmerman is coming off an injury-plagued season in which he played in 101 games while hitting .289 with 12 homers and 49 RBI. The right-handed hitter enters this season with a lifetime average of .288 with 128 homers and 498 RBI in 845 games and 3,283 at bats.
Davey Johnson, the Nats' manager, said before Thursday's game that he approached Zimmerman and noted he had heard the player usually needed about 50 at bats in spring training to feel comfortable.
"As far as I am concerned you are swinging like Opening Day right now. He is real comfortable," Johnson said after an 8-0 win over Houston.
Despite being an established player, Zimmerman was willing to change his throwing motion during the middle of last season. He worked with minor-league instructor Jeff Garber, a former player at James Madison University who played and coached in Kansas City's minor-league system, to start throwing the ball from more over the top instead of from the side.
"That is a testament to Ryan, he has a passion to be the best he can," said Rick Eckstein, the Nationals' hitting coach. "He is not afraid to challenge himself.
"He is a special person. His work ethic is second to none. To me, he is a special person. He is a pleasure to work with."
Zimmerman praised the work of Garber, a former JMU infielder.
"He is very good at what he does. He cares more about the player than himself. Garber is here when you need him," Zimmerman said.
Eckstein said it did not take a contract extension for Zimmerman to have an added clubhouse presence.
"He established that already. That contract only solidified what everybody knew," said Eckstein, whose brother David played shortstop in the big leagues.
Zimmerman said he and Garber trash-talked "a little bit" about their Virginia schools, who face one another regularly.
"Garber is not a big trash talker," said Zimmerman, who also happens to be soft-spoken. A big basketball fan, Zimmerman hopes his alma mater gets into the
men's basketball tournament while he picks Michigan State as a team to watch in
Off the field Zimmerman is active in raising funds to fight MS and he works through local chapters in the Tidewater region and in Washington.
He said the huge contract will not alter him as a person.