Chris Kline’s AFL Road Trip: Q&A With Ryan Zimmerman

PEORIA, Ariz.’"Don’™t blame Ryan Zimmerman if he just showed up in Arizona.

After a whirlwind season that started at Virginia way back in
February, Zimmerman finished the college season, was drafted by his
“hometown” team in Washington with the No. 4 overall pick and was one
of the initial first-rounders to sign, for $2.975 million. He then
quickly made short work of the minors and debuted at RFK Stadium’"all in
his first taste of pro ball.

Now Zimmerman is in the fall league, but has yet to play a position.
He was the Peoria Saguaros’™ DH the past two days and went hitless in
seven at-bats.

The Nats toyed with moving Zimmerman, who played the majority of his
college career at third, to shortstop earlier this summer. But that
experiment was short-lived, and when Zimmerman made it to the big
leagues, manager Frank Robinson played him sparingly because he didn’™t
want to mess with team chemistry.

We caught up with Zimmerman to find out where he’™s been, what the
busiest year of his life has been like, and how it was making his big
league debut three months after signing a contract.

Baseball America: First question is where have you been?

Ryan Zimmerman: I just went home for a couple weeks to rest
and really just relax and catch my breath for a little while. I mean, I
started playing games in February and didn’™t get much time off after
the draft because I signed so quickly. It’™s been a long year for me, so
I took some time off to let my body recover a little bit before coming
out here trying to get better.

BA: Your head must have been spinning this year. After Virginia
it was Savannah, then Harrisburg, then D.C., and now Arizona. What’™s
that been like?

RZ: It’™s been a ride. The reason I signed so quick was to
start playing. I went out and played well, and they kept their word
about moving me up if I played well and everything worked out great.

BA: There’™s a lot of excitement in the Washington area because of
the Nats. Was it being so close to your family part of the equation in
signing so quickly?

RZ: Absolutely. It’™s close and so nice’"a perfect situation
for me. I got on their plan and they talked about moving me up really
fast, and to me, that was worth so much more than money.

BA: In your opinion, how’™d the “experiment” go when they asked you to move from third to short?

RZ: It was a lot different, just in terms of the game being a
lot faster than it was in college. I tried it for a little while
because they asked me to, and I think I could do it full-time if that’™s
what they wanted me to do. I’™m more comfortable at third, just because
that’™s where I have the most experience. I’™ll be playing third out
here; they might get me in some at short, but I’™ll mostly be splitting
up games with (White Sox third baseman Josh) Fields.

BA: Do anything cool with your bonus?

RZ: No, I mean I haven’™t done much with it yet. Heck, I
haven’™t had time to do anything with it. I’™m going on a vacation to the
Bahamas, but that’™s about it. I haven’™t had time to chill out and buy
anything. I don’™t think I will anyway. I mean, it’™s there if I need it.

BA: So meal money is enough for you to get by?

RZ: Well, no . . . but meal money would have been awesome in
college. I’™m not going to just go out and drop a lot of money on
something just for the sake of doing it, just because I have it. That’™s
just not me. It’™s not something I’™d do.

BA: How was the big league experience?

RZ: It was great. The guys there treated me real well and I
learned a lot. Even when I wasn’™t playing and they were in the playoff
race, just the knowledge I got out of that whole experience of watching
those veteran guys play day in and day out when it really counted can
only help me in the long run.

BA: One day you’™re in college and the next day you’™re a millionaire in the big leagues. Ever really stop and analyze that?

RZ: It was wild. Once you get there and have been up for a
couple days, you wake up one day and think to yourself, ‘˜It’™s time to
go to work.’™ And then you realize that you’™re going to play Major
League Baseball and you’™re 20 years old. It was crazy. But you have to
take everything in stride and keep thinking of all the work that got
you there. That keeps you grounded.

BA: So what’™s the biggest challenge for you this fall?

RZ: The biggest thing for me is learning how to play this
deep into the season. I mean, I’™ve never played this much in my life.
It’™s harder to play when you’™re tired, but in reality, if you want to
play a major league season and go to the playoffs, this is what you’™re
going to have to do. It’™s learning how to play when I’™m not as fresh as
I have been’"that’™s the key to this fall for me.