Ryan Zimmerman Is Happy To Clinch A Playoff Birth, But More Celebrating Will Come With Division Title

September 24, 2012 – 6:45 am by Steven Cuce

The Washington Nationals clinched a playoff birth after beating the Los Angeles Dodgers last Thursday. This was the first playoff birth for the Nationals since 1933. Baseball fans in the Washington D.C. area have been deprived for a long time, to say the very least.

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has been the unquestioned leader of the Nationals for the last seven years and there’s no doubt that this moment had to have been special for the third baseman. Zimmerman is looking forward to the postseason, but knows this team has a lot more work to do.

Ryan Zimmerman joined 980 ESPN in D.C. with The Sports Fix to discuss the Washington Nationals clinching a playoff birth, the Nationals great team chemistry, the Nationals wanting to win a World Series title for Ryan Zimmerman and closing in on a National League East division title.

How much celebrating was there for clinching a playoff birth?

“I think, because we’ve done something that hasn’t been done in such a long time, we celebrated a little bit, but with the new format that the MLB put in place, you are in the playoffs, but you essentially locked up a one-game playoff to get into the playoffs, so we celebrated a little bit, but I think our ultimate goal the whole time is to win the division. I think if we keep playing the way we have been playing and once we do that the celebration will be a little bit better than it was last night.”

This clubhouse atmosphere is the tightest I’ve ever seen. What do you say about that?

“Yeah, like I was telling you last night, it makes it so much more fun to come to the park every day when you actually enjoy being around your teammates, and not that most teams are dysfunctional or most teams have everyone hate each other, but there’s usually a couple of guys that don’t get along and that’s just how it is. When you have 25 or 30 guys around each other as much as we are around each other … that’s usually how it works. But honestly this is the first team on any team that I have been involved with that literally every single person gets along. We all go out to dinner. Everyone is invited out every time and there’s no different groups, I guess. Everyone hangs out together. Obviously we’ve been a lot more talented than in year’s past, but I think that chemistry has helped us take that next step as well.”

Do you find it interesting that your teammates are saying, “Let’s win one for Ryan Zimmerman this year,” because they think you are old?

“I found this old man, veteran kind of persona, kind of interesting for a while actually. It’s funny, we’ll have people come up that don’t cover the team regularly, will come in and do a story on someone else and they’ll come talk to me or do a story on me and ask how old I am? I tell them and they look at me like they are talking to the wrong person. For some reason everyone thinks I am this 35-year-old guy that has been in the big leagues for 15 years that has never been to the playoffs and has never won anything. But I am fortunate to get called up at a young age and this organization took a chance on me. They brought me up age 20 and said, ‘Here is your audition, and if you do well it is yours to have for the next however many years.’”

A much bigger celebration if you clinch the division in the next week or two?

“Yeah. Yeah. That’ll be a good one. I don’t think not a lot of … anyone in our clubhouse knew how to handle last night, even Jayson Werth, who’s won everything there is to win.  … He even said he’s never had a chance to clinch something this far out. We still have two weeks of baseball left. It was a weird. It was fun. It was great ’cause we’ve done something this city hasn’t seen in a very long time, but I think the ultimate goal, especially this year, with the new format, is to win that division and we still have some work to do that.”

Listen to Ryan Zimmerman on 980 ESPN in D.C. here

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