VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (WTKR)- Before Ryan Zimmerman was a college star at Virginia or became Mr. National, he suited up as a shortstop for Floyd Kellam High School.
"You could tell when Ryan was in high school that he was going to be good at baseball, this good at baseball," Knights' head coach St. Clair Jones recalled. "You could tell, just size, just his attitude, his work ethic... it doesn't surprise me that he's been able to reach this level of baseball."
Zimmerman's number 11 will be immortalized by both UVA and the Nationals in the next several weeks. The Cavaliers will retire his number next Saturday, April 30, prior to their game against Virginia Tech. Washington will do the same as part of a two-day Ryan Zimmerman Weekend celebration June 17-18. The number retirement itself will take place that Saturday, June 18. Jones will make the trip to Nationals Park to be in attendance.
"I'm just going to be very proud, just because I know the person behind it, not the player," the head coach said.
Zimmerman has always been good about giving back to his alma mater, according to Jones. Spring break often sees the Knights' baseball team travel to Washington to take in a Nationals game and the former infielder would often interact with the high school players during their stay.
"It's helped bond some of our teams together and kids remember that," Jones said. "'I had an opportunity to meet Ryan' or whatever the case may be. Sometimes its the kids' first pro games they've gone to so it's truly a blessing."
UVA and the Nats won't be the only groups retiring Zimmerman's storied number 11. The Kellam baseball program will do the same at some point this season and, while no date has been set, Jones is looking forward to honoring the Knights legend.
"When we handed uniforms out this year and I handed out our jerseys and everything, number 11, I looked at the kid and said 'this will be the last time this jersey's worn,'" Jones remembered.
Zimmerman was drafted with the fourth overall pick in 2005, the first pick by Washington after moving to the nation's capital from Montreal. He retired as the Nationals' all-time leader in games played (1,799), runs scored (963), hits (1,846), total bases (3,159), doubles (417), home runs (284) and RBI (1,061). Zimmerman was an All-Star in 2009 and 2017, won a Gold Glove award in 2009 and was a Silver Slugger in 2009 and 2010. He helped the Nationals to their first World Series championship in 2019, as Washington topped the Astros in seven games.
The Virginia Beach native spent his entire 16 year Major League career with the Nationals.