VIERA, Fla. - From the time he was drafted in 2005, Ryan Zimmerman spoke of wanting to play his whole career in Washington. Because he grew up in Virginia Beach, Va., and played college baseball at the University of Virginia, he said playing at Nationals Park felt like an extension of his familiar surroundings.
During the press conference Sunday to announce his six-year, $100 million contract extension, Zimmerman mentioned how rare it is for players in this era to spend their entire careers with the same team. He referenced former Orioles great and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and said how his fellow members from the 2005 draft class who have signed long-term deals with the teams that drafted them - Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun - have talked about how they might represent a new wave of the old practice of career-long stays in a single city.
Stephen Strasburg, taken first overall in the 2009 draft by the Nationals, won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season. Unless his career is interrupted by injury or takes an unexpected detour, Strasburg is the kind of player general manager Mike Rizzo will have to think about locking up long-term sooner rather than later.
Strasburg has some first-hand knowledge about star players making long commitments to their original team. At San Diego State, he played for baseball coach Tony Gwynn, who spent his entire 20-year major league career with in San Diego, where he was considered the face of the team and nicknamed “Mr. Padre.” Gwynn and Ripken were enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., together in 2007, their first year of eligibility.
Asked if he’d like to one day follow in the footsteps of Gwynn and Zimmerman, Strasburg sounded open to the possibility of remaining with the Nationals for the duration of his career - as long as the team is productive on the field.
“You get comfortable, you get to know the guys and stuff, and you build camaraderie,” Strasburg said. “When you have a team like this that’s capable of winning, it would appeal to anybody to want to stay here and win and win and win. I don’t feel any different.”
With a nod to history, Strasburg weighed in on the Zimmerman extension.
“It’s great to see another guy be with one team his whole career,” Strasburg said. “I think all the work that Zimmerman has put in through the bad times - now, hopefully, it’s going to be the good times. He is a National. He obviously wanted to be a National his whole career. I’m just happy for him.”