During a conference call Monday on the launch of the Pros for Heroes charity campaign, Ryan Zimmerman provided more insight into last week's Zoom video call with his teammates and coaching staff as they watching MASN's rebroadcast of Game 7 of the 2019 World Series.
Zimmerman had a really good time that night, reminiscing with his buddies on the historic franchise win in Houston. So much so he joked at a reporter's query: "How did I feel right afterwards or the morning when I woke up after the call?"
The genesis of the video call and the potential of making it into an event that could help others came in discussions Zimmerman had with "Nats Xtra" co-host Dan Kolko after they were a part of a Zoom video call during a re-watch of a National League Championship Series clincher against St. Louis.
"I only did the bottom of the seventh, the eighth and the ninth inning with him," Zimmerman said. "We were on for maybe an hour. He called me the next day and said 'Man, that was so much fun.' "
Kolko told Zimmerman the viewership numbers were good and a lot of people watched the call. That got Zimmerman thinking about the potential that these Zoom group calls could be a temporary replacement for what was supposed to be a bit of a victory lap in early April during the Nationals' home-opening series against the Mets.
"Everyone is starving for sports content to see games," Zimmerman said. "For our fans and talking to a lot of guys in spring training, I think we were most bummed about that opening series where we were going to be able to raise the World Series banner, to get our rings, and to ultimately share that with the fan base and the community. We put our heads together and thought that this could be kind of the closest thing to help people have something until we can get back on the field."
Zimmerman looks back now on the Zoom call for Game 7 and remembers a special moment, almost like getting back together with old buddies for a school reunion.
"It was fun for us to get together," Zimmerman said. "A lot of us had kept in touch, texting each other, things like that. But to get everyone back, just on the screen and hanging out, and having a couple of drinks and to be able to watch that together (was special). I think a lot of us having never really re-watched it, to do it together and to tell some stories and, more importantly, to get something for the fans was a lot of fun."
The next day Zimmerman was told how well the call went and just how many fans tuned in. Thousands of fans checked in to see their favorite team talk about the shocking win in Houston last October.
"At the time of the call we weren't aware of any of that," Zimmerman said. "I guess maybe you could see on the Facebook live feed, but none of us were really paying attention to that. It wasn't 'til next day when we had the follow-up call to see how it went and thank everybody that they told us the numbers of how many watched. Obviously, it was fun for us and great for the fans."
Zimmerman said he could not have asked for better timing for the call's success.
With fans practicing social distancing, the Zoom call was a perfect starting point to introduce the Pros for Heroes campaign, a charity designed to, as the effort's GoFundMe page puts it, "ensure that health care professionals have the tools they need to stay safe, including supplies, reliable equipment and healthy meals for themselves and their families every day."
"They say timing is everything," Zimmerman said. "So for us to be able to launch this Pros for Heroes initiative that day, and then have hundreds of thousands of people basically be put in front of it five or six hours after you launch it with that unique platform, that has really never been done before. Honestly, I don't think anyone will be able to recreate what we did that night. That's been a huge part of why this has been so successful, so quick. Now it's our job to keep it going."
Zimmerman was having a great time seeing all of his teammates and coaches get involved in the call and ride again the emotions of the roller coaster Game 7.
"Having the coaches on was pretty cool for everyone to see the relationship between players (and) coaches," Zimmerman said. "What maybe Davey (Martinez) and Chip (Hale) were thinking about on the bench during these innings."
During the call and celebration, Zimmerman noticed how focused Max Scherzer was in watching the game he pitched in six months ago.
"Then to have Max join kind of early," Zimmerman said. "We wanted to do that because obviously, he started that game and I wanted people to kind of get a look into his head of what he's thinking about while he pitches. It was so funny for me to watch him. He was locked on the TV, watching every single pitch. Not really paying attention to the Zoom call. Almost like he was assessing his performance, which is such a Max thing to do. Just like sitting there quietly crushing beers watching himself pitch Game 7 of the World Series. So that was fun, to hear kind of what he was thinking about a little bit."
Gerardo Parra joined in. So did Stephen Strasburg. Brian Dozier conducted costume changes and banged on a trash can to tease the Astros. The motley crew was back together again and Zimmerman loved it. He also enjoyed getting to share these candid moments with the Nats fans.
"Then having the cast of characters come on," Zimmerman said. "I think it was cool for the fans to get an insight. That's literally what it was like for us every day, minus the six or seven bourbons that I had. That group of guys, that's how we acted and that's how we treated each other in the clubhouse every single day. Every plane trip, every dinner that we went out to, every game.
"I think people realized how genuine it was as it got going. All that stuff was kind of organic. The dancing, the Parra and the (AnÃbal) SÃ¡nchez sunglasses stuff. Stephen is a funny guy. He just finally let people see that he is a funny guy. It took those kind of guys to get (Strasburg relaxed). Obviously, we are a very talented group and that's the main reason that we won the World Series.
"But I think there's really no other team or no other group of guys that could have did what we did last year and come back from how we started and win all those games in the playoffs. I honestly believe that that was the only group of guys that could have done that."
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