When the Washington Nationals take the field on Thursday night for this season's Opening Day against the New York Yankees, the clubhouse will likely feel that someone is missing.
That's because Thursday will mark the first season opener that infielder Ryan Zimmerman isn't in the clubhouse since the team's inaugural season. Zimmerman, who has been part of Washington's Major League club since September 2005, decided to opt-out of the 2020 seasons due to concerns surrounding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Zimmerman's future in Washington is a bit blurry. The 35-year-old signed a one-year deal with Washington this offseason after contemplating retirement. By skipping the 2020 season, many wondered if we've seen the last of the longtime National in a Washington uniform.
On Wednesday, Zimmerman answered that question, saying he fully intends to come back next season.
"I fully plan on being back," Zimmerman said. "I've told my family and a bunch of close friends that I can't go out like this."
The infielder told his plan to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on a Zoom call. Fauci, whose public image has risen to prominence over the past several months due to his role in the country's coronavirus response, is scheduled to throw the first pitch on Thursday ahead of Washington's clash with the Yankees.
The conversation, which Washington's official Twitter account posted, was intended to be Zimmerman offering Fauci some tips on throwing the first pitch. While Zimmerman did just that, Fauci went full reporter-mode at the end of the conversation and got an answer out of the infielder than many Nats fans were itching to know.
As for what Zimmerman will miss the most by not playing this year, it's not being able to experience a season as the defending World Series champions.
"The most exciting part of this season that I was looking forward to was being able to defend a title, see what it's like to play as a World Series champ and have every team kind of gunning for you, trying to repeat," Zimmerman said. "I was very disappointed not being able to play."
Zimmerman also went into detail saying that while he does miss baseball every day, he knows he made the right decision by sitting this season out.
"I've missed every second of it. It was a tough decision for me, but I think the right decision for me and my family," Zimmerman said. "I think it's an individual decision, and I hope everything keeps going the way it's gone for baseball so far. They've been wildly successful so far."
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