Just completed a conference call with NL Gold Glove award winner Ryan Zimmerman a little while ago, and I wanted to relay some of his comments to everyone out there. But first, a behind-the-scenes moment from the conference call that simply must be made public…
There were, I don’t know, about a dozen people on the call, including reporters from papers, websites, radio and TV stations, plus Zimmerman and Nats PR director John Dever, who at the beginning reminded everyone to please hit the mute buttons on our phones so there wouldn’t be any distracting background noise.
Well, as Zim starts answering his first question, we can hear chatter in the background, sounds like something from a newsroom. Dever again politely reminds everyone to turn the sound down. Of course, a minute later, just as Zim is answering a question from me about advanced fielding stats, the chatter starts up again. This time, it’s clear what we’re hearing. It’s Channel 9 meterologist Topper Shutt recording a promo for this evening’s news. Over and over and over, until he gets it just right. At this point, Dever is (justifiably) screaming at whoever’s on the line from Channel 9 to hang up because they’re ruining the conference call. No response. Finally, after a good three minutes, Topper nails his two-line promo and order is restored and we resume the call.
(Maybe it’s just me, but something tells me Channel 9 won’t be the Official Station of the Washington Nationals in 2010.)
Anyways, onto Zim’s remarks…
On winning his first Gold Glove: “Defense was kind of my claim to fame when I got drafted that high, and they thought I’d develop into an offensive player. It’s always been a big part of my game. I worked hard at it. And I take a lot of pride in it. So it’s a huge honor, and one of the best individual honors you can get, according to me.”
On being a great defensive player: “You take a lot of pride in defense. I think as young players, people respect you when you work hard and you go about your business day in and day out. And you can’t really win this award without going out there every day and working hard and playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
How do you measure defense: on these new advanced stats or more on what you see with your own eyes? “I don’t look at any advanced stats. To be honest with you, I just try to get every single ball that comes my way. I think in the past, that’s kind of hurt me a little bit. I get to many balls and instead of not throwing the ball, I try to make the play. But I think this year I kind of learned when it’s smart to try to make the play and when it’s not. If you try to make every single play, I think it hurts the team more than it helps. But I just like guys who are aggressive and go after every single ball that they can. You never know what’s going to happen, so just go for it.”
On his midseason string of throwing errors, and what he did to correct it: “This year and last year, it seemed like I had a week or so where I did that. I think that happening and me having to work through it helped me in the second half and helped me so I could eventually come through and win this award and get that behind me. I can’t tell you why I did it or how I did it. When stuff like that happens, I don’t really think about it. It just kind of happens. The way I look at it is, I went through that and still had a pretty good year defensively. Hopefully that’s behind me. You can only imagine what the years ahead are going to hold.”
On unseating two-time Gold Glove 3B (and childhood friend David Wright): “I have a huge amount of respect for David. I think he plays the game the right way. He works tremendously hard. He’s always been one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known. And obviously we’re good friends. We’re competitive and we enjoy watching each other play. I think we both respect each other. And hopefully for years to come, if we’re lucky enough to continue doing what we’re doing, this will be a yearly thing. It’s fun for us.”
What was your reaction when you found out? “To be honest with you, I didn’t even think about it. I remember the last time I sat around and waited to see if I won something, I came up short to Hanley [Ramirez] in the [2006 NL] Rookie of the Year thing. So I’ve been just doing what I usually do, just hanging out. To hear this news and to win something like this, it was very exciting for me and for my family.”
On squaring off with former UVA teammate Mark Reynolds for the NL Silver Slugger Award which will be handed out tomorrow: “He had a great year. He’s come a long way as well. When he first came into the league, he was also young and didn’t really know like myself which pitches he could handle and which pitches he could drive. It’s kind of amazing to see how far he’s come in a year or two. To hit 44 home runs and do what he did is impressive. It’s fun to compete against those guys. If you would have asked us all 10 years ago if this would be something that would be happening, I think we would all say no way. But now that it’s happening and we’re here, I think we all push each other to work even harder and become even better.”