A little over 12 hours after touching down in D.C. following a lengthy 10-day road trip out west, the bulk of the Nationals' players and coaches made their way to Nationals Park last night, not for a game but to support their teammate and a great cause.
Ryan Zimmerman's fourth annual "A Night At The Park" was held at Nats Park last night, with nearly 2,000 fans joining a number of D.C. sports celebrities to enjoy some music, food and a good time, all benefiting Zimmerman's ziMS Foundation, which is dedicated to the treatment and ultimate cure of multiple sclerosis.
Those in attendance were treated to a performance by Third Eye Blind (who finished their set with a pretty cool cover of "Stairway to Heaven"), and live and silent auctions were also held before the concert out on the concourse above the right field bleachers.
All 1,850 tickets for the event were sold, and all told, the event raised over $300,000 for MS research. Since creating the ziMS foundation in 2006, Zimmerman has now raised in the neighborhood of $1.5 million dollars, the bulk of which goes directly to the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic at the University of Virginia.
"To be able to raise that much money, and more importantly, give back that much money in that short of a period of time, we're very proud of that," Zimmerman said. "They've come a long way in the last five years. And hopefully in the future we won't have any more of these, because they'll find a cure and we won't have to do these anymore."
This is a cause close to Zimmerman's heart; his mother Cheryl has been fighting MS since her diagnosis in 1995. In addition to the Nationals players and coaches in attendance, the Capitals' Brooks Laich and Redskins' Ryan Kerrigan and Nick Sundberg were there supporting Zimmerman and his foundation.
With the Nats getting in so late yesterday morning and it being one of their few off-days, Zimmerman was obviously appreciative of the number of guys that made their way to the park for the event.
"It means a lot," Zimmerman said. "We're obviously teammates, and on the field we're fighting for the same thing. But for them to take time out of their off-day -- which we don't get many -- and getting home at 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning from the West Coast, for so many of them to come out and support me and buy things and drive up prices on the auction ... I think it just shows you not only what kind of players, but what kind of organization we have."
The event truly was a great time even with the rain forcing some adjustments to the concert, and if you haven't made it out to one of the four "A Night At The Parks" so far, make sure you look into attending next year.
Zimmerman and the Nats will be back at the park today for a more traditional purpose - they'll be welcoming the Phillies into town for the first time this season.
The Nats' schedule with the Phils is a little funky this year; the two teams didn't face each other once in the season's first seven weeks, and now they'll square off 10 times over the next seven weeks.
Jordan Zimmermann, Dan Haren and Stephen Strasburg are listed the Nats' probable starters for the series, so if that holds to form, we can expect Ross Detwiler to likely get the start Tuesday against the Orioles.
Detwiler missed his last start because of a slight oblique strain, but he seems to be on track to return to the rotation without needing to land on the DL. The Nats were able to push Detwiler's next start back from Sunday to Tuesday because of yesterday's off-day, and Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez will be able to start Sunday and Monday, respectively, on full rest.
This will be the first time the Nats and Phillies have seen each other since the incident back in spring training when Strasburg hit Chase Utley with a pitch and Phillies starter Roy Halladay appeared to respond by throwing behind Tyler Moore.
Both Utley and Halladay are currently on the disabled list, but in no way does that mean the incident this spring will be forgotten. These two teams don't like each other, and you can bet the umpires in this series will be closely monitoring things to try and prevent any on-field issues from getting out of hand.
The two teams are separated by just a game in the National League East standings and the Phillies have won seven of their last 10, so this series could be a nice barometer of how the division stands at this point.