A versatile infielder and veteran presence, Ronnie Belliard played an important role during three tough seasons in Washington.
Traded to the Dodgers in late August 2009, Belliard found himself moving cross-country from a team pushing toward a 100 loss season to a team destined for postseason play. Added as a utilityman and bat on the bench, Belliard impressed the Dodgers quickly with his hot hitting and ended the season as an everyday player.
This April, Belliard continues to impress. The infielder is hitting .423 with a .444 OBP in 12 games with the Dodgers.
Though he played against the Nats back in September of last year, Belliard sees something different when watching his former team today. He sees a stronger, more unified team that plays better baseball.
"I think it is the manager," Belliard said addressing the team's recent success. "Riggleman is a good person and I think they are playing comfortable."
It's something Belliard never saw during his days in NatsTown, though he said that he has wonderful memories of playing in Washington. His walk-off homer against current teammate, then Orioles closer, George Sherrill back in 2008 was instant classic for fans. You might guess it to be his favorite memory as a National, but guess again.
"My best memory?" He paused for a few minutes and smiled.
"I have a lot. When Zimmerman went to the All Star game. A young kid like that who works hard and he deserved it. He won the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger."
It was a surprise response from an old familiar face who saw this team through its growing pains. And it's just one manifestation of the respect Ryan Zimmerman continues to earn from his teammates in a very quiet way.
For a veteran baseball player to look back on several seasons in Washington and point to the development of one of the game's most talented young stars as his favorite memory says a lot about both Zimmerman and Belliard.
"I saw a lot of good things happen [here]," Belliard said. "There's a lot of good [memories] for me."