Friday, June 5, 2009

ZIMMERMAN MAKES SIGNIFICANT GIFT TO PROGRAM THAT MADE HIM WHAT HE IS TODAY

We know that your thinking… “Loser?” C'mon, it's the Nats.

However, we were thinking “major league ball player” because we are nicer than you and it is T.A.H. Virginia Baseball Month...

Damn, why didn't we chose February - two, count 'em, TWO fewer days.

But, we digress...

Ryan Zimmerman, a former All-America third baseman at Virginia and currently a member of the Washington Nationals, has made a $250,000 contribution to the Virginia Athletics Foundation for improvements to benefit the UVa baseball program. Zimmerman is currently in his fourth full season with the Nationals.

The gift to VAF from Zimmerman is designated for an expansion project at Davenport Field, home of Virginia baseball. The project includes construction of a team meeting room, weight room, indoor batting cages, training room, a hall of fame area, umpires' locker room and visiting locker room. The project will enhance the University’s ability to secure future NCAA events. A possible second phase of the project would include additional seats and suites and would require additional private gifts to fund it.

“The stadium project is very important to the future of Virginia baseball and the development of players in the program,” Zimmerman said. “The Virginia baseball program was critical in my development into a major league player. I would not be where I am today without the past support of donors to the Virginia baseball program. I now have the opportunity to join that group and help UVa baseball remain among the best programs in the country.

“During my career at Virginia, I was fortunate to play in an NCAA Regional hosted by UVa at Davenport Field. That was a great experience for our team. I want to help ensure that future players at UVa have the same opportunity to play in an NCAA Regional on their home field. I hope others will join me in support of this project.”

The Virginia Athletics Foundation has been in a quiet fund raising phase for this project and this gift pushes the fund raising total over $3 million. The athletics department is currently working with the University administration and an architect to determine the final cost and design of the expansion. Once the final cost is determined, 100 percent of the cost of the project will need to be in place with pledges and 50 percent of the cash will need to be received in order to begin construction. In addition, an operational endowment is required to be in place to handle the annual operational expenses of the new facility.

Zimmerman played three years at Virginia before being drafted by the Nationals as the fourth overall pick in the first round of the 2005 Major League Baseball First-year Player Draft. He was a second-team All-America selection by Baseball America and a third-team All-America selection by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association in 2005. Zimmerman also earned second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors that season and was named to the 2005 ACC All-Tournament Team. He was a first-team All-ACC selection in 2004 and an honorable mention All-America selection by College Baseball Insider that season.

In 2005, Zimmerman started all 61 games for the Cavaliers at either third base (his primary position) or shortstop. He led Virginia with a .393 batting average, 92 hits, 59 runs batted in, 51 runs, 18 doubles, four triples, a .581 slugging percentage, 136 total bases and 17 stolen bases. He also had six home runs.

He ended his Virginia career with a .355 (250-704) batting average and ranked on several of the Cavaliers’ career statistical lists, including fifth in doubles (47), sixth in hits (250) and seventh in runs batted in (140). He also held the school record for hits in a season with 92 in 2005.

Zimmerman was named USA Baseball’s Athlete of the Year in 2004 when he led Team USA to a gold medal finish and earned tournament MVP honors in the World University Games.

“Ryan’s commitment to the Virginia baseball program shows his respect for his career in a Cavalier uniform,” said UVa head baseball coach Brian O’Connor. “I am very excited to have Ryan involved with this important project for the future of our baseball program.”

After playing in 20 games for the Washington Nationals at the end of the 2005 major league season, Zimmerman became the team’s every day third baseman in 2006. He was runner-up for National League Rookie of the Year honors that season after batting .287 with 47 doubles, 20 home runs and 110 runs batted in.

Zimmerman had a 30-game hitting streak earlier this season and was batting .322 (68-211) for the Nationals with 15 doubles, 11 home runs and 37 runs batted in through games of June 3.

Additionally, Zimmerman has his own foundation, ziMS Foundation, which works to find a cure and help those who are affected by multiple sclerosis.

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