On an off-night after a long West Coast road trip, nine Washington Nationals skipped a night of rest and family time to support Ryan Zimmerman's inaugural ziMS Foundation event in Washington D.C. "A Night at the Park" formally launched the foundation in the nation's capital, introducing Nationals fans and Washington elite to Zimmerman's important cause.
"This has been my home for the past five years. I've grown fond of this city," Zimmerman said.
"We ultimately want to make the foundation bigger and better and the next step was to bring it to a bigger and better city. There's really not a bigger and better city in the world to do something like this than in D.C."
NBC's Chuck Todd served as Master of Ceremonies and Senator Byron Dorgan, Congressman Michael Burgess and Congressman Russ Carnahan were the Honorary Co-Chairs, giving a subtle but important hint at where the foundation hopes to gain influence as it continues to grow.
"This is kinda a big stepping stone for us. We think from here it could take off and the sky's the limit," Zimmerman said. "This city is obviously very political. I think I'm just starting to learn a little bit about that. Getting that side of the city involved in what I want to do is a huge part and they've been gracious enough to be very helpful."
Zimmerman's mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis over 15 years ago. Zimmerman, along with his parents Cheryl and Keith, launched the foundation in 2006 to fund research and treatment programs for MS. Each year, the ziMS Foundation holds a gala and golf tournament in Virginia Beach to raise money for the cause. Those funds have supported the Department of Neurology at UVA, the YMCA in Arlington, the Hampton Roads MS Society and various weekend getaway clinics for MS patients in Virginia Beach.
On Monday night, Zimmerman presented a $30,000 check to the National Capital Chapter of the MS Society.
"When I got to play baseball at this level, I had a platform to run with it and do something with it. It's just something I always wanted to do," he continued. "It's amazing when you start something little, how much it can do."
Guests at the event had the opportunity to bid on silent auction items including a Zimmerman autographed bat, base, jersey and photo. There were also autographed items from other professional athletes.
The live auction portion of the evening raised over $25,000, though much of that came from Adam Dunn who outbid those in attendance on various items. The slugger won a package to work out with Zimmerman and his trainer in Tampa for $7,000 and an American Idol VIP experience for over $2,200. In total, the foundation raised over $200,000 during the event.
Other teammates in attendance included Craig Stammen, Ivan Rodriguez, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Willie Harris, John Lannan, Sean Burnett and Ross Detwiler.
After the auction, the 700 paid guests in attendance were treated to special performances by Multu and Amos Lee. Magician David Blaine entertained VIP guests in the President's Club.
Photo credit: Chris Kennedy Images
More photos are available on MASN's Facebook page.