Nats’ star Ryan Zimmerman’s AP diary: Memories of day games

MLB

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ryan Zimmerman is a two-time All-Star infielder who has played 15 seasons in the majors, all with the Washington Nationals, helping them win the World Series last year. With baseball on hold, Zimmerman is offering his thoughts — as told to AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich — in a diary of sorts. In the fourth installment, Zimmerman discusses what it might have been like to be at Nationals Park on Thursday, when Washington was scheduled to host the Los Angeles Dodgers at 1:05 p.m. in a rematch of last season’s NL Division Series.

For me, especially for day games, you can’t recreate walking through the tunnel — the sound, the sight, the feel.

For a 1 o’clock home game on a weekday – no batting practice – I usually leave my house at around 9:15, so I can get behind traffic. I drive in and get to the field by 9:45 or 10, and then I’m basically inside.

A quick breakfast, and I’m right into my routine.

Training room — anything I need to do there — and weight room. And then you’re pretty much getting ready: getting dressed for the game, hitting in the indoor batting cage underneath the stands. I also do all of my defensive daily work in those cages.

We’re basically in a cave for those 3 hours until game time.

The first time I go outside for a day game is when I go through that tunnel from the clubhouse to the dugout and come out and go up the stairs — see the sunshine or smell the ballpark food or hear the fans as you run onto the field for a 5-minute warmup.

And the thing about day games? Sometimes, honestly, you don’t feel that good.

Day games are real tough if you had a night game the night before. Maybe it went a little late, one of those longer games that are tougher to rebound from.

You’re maybe not getting to bed until 2 in the morning. You might be a little lethargic getting out there.

The crowd can pump energy into you. I miss kind of feeling that realization that, “OK. It’s time. Here we go.”

Nobody can really do that for you like the fans. Even on the road, going into a hostile environment — people wanting you to fail — really drives you to do even better, sometimes.

Yes, the No. 1 biggest thing that I miss right now about baseball is the competition and the adrenaline you get from running out onto the field with 30,000 or 40,000 people coming to watch you perform.

For me, it’s cool seeing some of the season-ticket holders and fans that I’ve known for 10, 15 years that come to pretty much every single home game. Even if I don’t get to say, “Hi” to them, or acknowledge them, I see them in the stands. There are the same people that sit behind home plate every single game.

Other things I miss: Talking to the guys we’re playing against on other teams. Talking to the umpires. Driving in and seeing the parking-lot person. Seeing the same couple of security guys that are always outside the clubhouse.

You don’t realize that you’ve created bonds with these people over the last however-many years. Some of them have been there as long as I have, it seems like. I miss those relationships, too.

Whether you feel good that day, whether you feel bad — whether you have been hitting well over the last week or so, or you’ve been terrible over the last week or so — you have to somehow find a way to go out there and perform and do your best that day.

That drive, that inner purpose, is not only what I miss, but I think that’s what a lot of the American public misses right now.

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