The crack was loud in part because the crowd was quiet.
Late on a Sunday night, March 30, 2008, when Nationals Park had been open for a handful of hours, Ryan Zimmerman further defined his "Mr. Walkoff" nickname.
Peter Moylan, Atlanta's sidewinding right-hander, whipped a 1-0 pitch toward Zimmerman with two out, none on and the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth. When it landed, a row deep and into the hands of a fan in a hoodie, ESPN’s Jon Miller announced in his made-for-baseball baritone, “The ball game is over. Ryan Zimmerman has delivered.”
Zimmerman’s fourth career walk-off homer opened the park with euphoria. The first day brought 39,389 into the new stadium, which was touted as a centerpiece for rejuvenation in a section of Washington which needed it. Those who were there, and the overall situation, reflects how far the team has come. It’s also yet another reminder of how long Zimmerman has been around.
Odalis Perez started the game. Jon Rausch tried to finish it. Manny Acta managed it. The team was terrible.
Jim Bowden put the club together. He resigned less than a year later. The team finished 59-102 that year. Acta made it 87 games into the next season before losing his job. Jim Riggleman took over, starting his own saga in Washington.
Of the eight regulars from the 2008 season, only three -- Zimmerman, Christian Guzman and Willie Harris -- were regulars the next year. The team stunk then, too, cruising in at 59-103, almost a mirrored failing.
Zimmerman, meanwhile, was growing into one of the league’s better players and entrenching himself as one of the few positive lights in Washington. He became an All-Star the following year, then put together a 6.2-WAR season in 2010. The team began its pivot to relevancy two years later in 2012. Eleven years after he opened Nationals Park with a walk-off home run, Zimmerman was waving a giant Nationals flag in Minute Maid Park after winning Game 7 of the World Series.
Not long after Zimmerman cranked the flag around in Houston, he became a free agent for the first time. Mike Rizzo said he thought Zimmerman would be back, and made a voluntary point when suggesting a statue of Zimmerman would eventually rest outside of Nationals Park. Days like March 30, 2008 are among the reasons why.
Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.
MORE NATIONALS NEWS: