- The Washington Times - Monday, July 15, 2013

NEW YORK — Winter in Wisconsin can seem relentless. Snow blankets the ground. The temperature rarely jumps above 27 degrees, and it’s not uncommon for it to hover in the single digits. The world expands for miles in front of you, and it’s almost entirely frozen.

This is Jordan Zimmermann’s paradise.

The Washington Nationals right-hander pushes the madness of the baseball season into his rearview and shuffles his way onto the frozen canvas of a lake of his choosing two or three times a week. He cuts a hole in the ice, drops in his fishing line and waits. Usually he’s with a buddy or two, if they don’t have to work.

Last winter, they rented shanties up north and stayed on the ice for four days — a trip that prompted Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty, a Michigan native, to chide him.

“That’s not ice fishing,” McCatty said incredulously. “When you go out there and it’s like 20 degrees below [zero] and you’ve got a little stool and your thermos there, like an idiot, that’s ice fishing.”

Washington Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann pitches for Wisconsin-Stevens Point during the 2007 NCAA Division III World Series (Wisconsin-Stevens Point Athletics)
Washington Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann pitches for Wisconsin-Stevens Point during the 2007 ... more >

Zimmermann laughs. Technology has made it so that he can monitor when a fish is approaching his line and adjust the level of his bait accordingly. He has an underwater camera and an electric filet knife to quickly prepare the fish for cooking. His first purchase after the Nationals paid him $495,000 to sign as their second-round pick in 2007 was a fishing boat, but the baseball season doesn’t allow him to use it much.

When he’s alone he’ll most often do “tip-up” fishing, in which he can drop in his lines and wait in the warmth of his car until the flag goes up and he knows he’s got a bite.

“So, I’ll just drop those in and sit in the car,” Zimmermann said. Then he cracked a mischievous smile. “And tweet all day or something,” he added sarcastically.

Zimmermann, of course, does not tweet. He is not interested in self promotion or dipping into the world of social media that has enticed so many athletes. He’d rather go about his business in relative anonymity. While he’s gotten more loquacious over the years, he’s still not the wordiest interview.

It’s hard for everyone to keep ignoring you, though, when you continue to prove you are among the best in the game. When he is announced at the All-Star game at Citi Field on Tuesday night, with a 12-4 record and a 2.58 ERA at the break, there will be very few ways left for him to continue going unnoticed.

Jordan is one hell of a pitcher,” Phillies infielder Kevin Frandsen said last week. “Everyone talks about [Matt Harvey of the New York Mets] starting the All-Star game, but that guy has made himself one hell of a resume all year. The last couple years.”

“It’s great seeing him get the recognition he deserves, because he works hard, he has a lot of pride and he competes,” McCatty said. “He knows he’s good, and I think he also knows there’s still stuff to learn. But he’s not just good, he’s better than good. He’s really good.”

Developing an ace

The process of Zimmermann becoming the pitcher he is now — with Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche getting used to opposing players pulling him aside and saying, “I think this might be your best pitcher” — was not quick.

When Zimmermann was entering his senior year at Auburndale High School, his coach, Mark Brost, wrote letters to all 30 major league teams about the pitcher. As it says on the sign denoting the town line, the population of Auburndale is 738. Major league scouts weren’t exactly flocking there.

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