On Wednesday afternoon, Washington Nationals pitchers Jordan Zimmermann and Tyler Clippard visited Long Branch Elementary School in Arlington to teach children about healthy lifestyles.
Zimmermann and Clippard answered questions for the students about how they learned to play baseball, what it's like to play for the Nationals and how to stay motivated after a bad game. They also talked about facing Albert Pujols, admiring Greg Maddux and careers they may have pursued if baseball hadn't worked out (wildlife science for Zimmermann and golf for Clippard).
More importantly, they talked about all the hard work they put in when they're not on the field and how the game motivates them to keep getting better.
"I just wanted to get across that if you want to do something, anything is possible. As long as you put your mind to it and go all out, you can do whatever you want," Zimmermann said.
The pitchers also helped the Physical Education department launch a new learning unit on catching and throwing. Zimmermann and Clippard took turns playing catch with the students and teaching them about good catching and throwing form. Though they normally decline to participate, two autistic students joined Zimmerman and Clippard for the game of catch. For the teachers, that was a happy surprise.
"It's definitely a lifelong thing," said Chris Cannaday, a teacher at Long Branch.
"We're trying to teach skills and attributes that have them moving and enjoying physical fitness for the rest of their lives."
"It's a great opportunity for our kids to meet professional athletes and to see the reason behind us teaching these basic skills," added fellow teacher Lindsey Brizendine. "I think it meant the world to a lot of them."
But it meant a lot to Clippard and Zimmermann as well. Though events like this take them "out of their element," they are a really important part of the job, according to Clippard.
"It's as good for us as it is for them," he said. "I feel like to be a professional athlete, it's more than just throwing baseballs around. We're playing here in D.C. so it's good for us to get out in the community. Today was just a small portion of that. I'm just glad to be a part of it."
After playing with the students, the pitchers handed out Nationals caps and signed autographs.