After Ryan Zimmerman opted out of the 2020 season, he had plenty of time to be a dad and watch Nats games from his couch at home.
That also gave him plenty of time to realize what he missed most in his first season out of baseball since he was a child. It was the competitiveness that came along with playing against the best of the best.
"You don't realize how much you 'enjoy,' going against Jacob deGrom or Clayton Kershaw, or coming up against a badass closer with a runner on second and third and get a hit," Zimmerman told The Sports Junkies on Friday. "I don't think you realize how much you miss that until you don't have it."
Zimmerman, who is returning to the Nationals next season on a one-year deal, has been open about accepting a more limited role, whether that's getting inserted into the batting order against a lefty pitcher or even pinch-hitting when needed.
The 36-year-old first baseman said he consulted many people about what to do this offseason, but his dad had the best advice of them all.
"He always said, 'If you're going to stop, make sure you're ready to stop. Because once you stop and once you give them your jersey off your back, they're not giving it back,'" Zimmerman said. "If you want to keep doing it, he said, 'Make sure you're ready and prepared, but if you're going to stop, make sure you're at peace with it.'
"I don't think I'm anywhere close to being at peace with that yet."
Having not had the opportunity to fully celebrate the 2019 World Series triumph is another motivating factor for Zimmerman's return, though he reiterated Friday that this upcoming season is by no means a "victory lap." But he's taken notice of how other sports, especially the NFL, has had fans attend games while properly socially distanced.
Still hoping to have that title celebration on an opening day with the home crowd inside the ballpark, Zimmerman said he thinks up to 10,000 fans could fit safely inside Nationals Park after a 2020 season devoid of any fans.
"This city, and that fanbase, we've gone through a lot: All the way back to RFK, opening up the new stadium, to losing 100 games, to finally breaking through in the playoffs and getting past the first-round. There's a lot to celebrate," Zimmerman said.