Photo: Michael Coleman
Photo: Michael Coleman

A Night at the Park Aims to Strike Out Multiple Sclerosis

A few hundred fortunate Washington Nationals fans got to rub elbows with some of their favorite players at the ballpark Monday night while contributing to a good cause at Ryan Zimmerman’s eighth annual A Night at the Park event to benefit victims of multiple sclerosis.

The Nationals slugger, who is enjoying a spectacular early season behind the plate with a jaw-dropping .420 batting average, joined teammates Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzales and others to raise nearly $1 million for the progressive nerve disease. Zimmerman’s ziMS Foundation has collected more than $3 million for the cause over the past eight years.

The exclusive party at the Norfolk Southern Club at Nationals Park gave guests a chance to mingle with Zimmerman and his Nationals’ teammates, sip cocktails, and nosh on salmon and steak while bidding on some impressive sports memorabilia and listening to a spirited set of live music by rising country star Canaan Smith.

“Nights like this don’t happen unless you guys step up to the plate, and every year you guys have,” Zimmerman told an admiring audience. “I hope you know how much we appreciate it.”

The first baseman, who attended the University of Virginia, explained how he started his foundation a dozen years ago as a way to help those, like his mother, who suffer from the terrible disease.

“The foundation was started basically in the living room of my parents’ house,” Zimmerman said. “We started with a golf tournament in Virginia Beach, and we do a bowling event in Charlottesville, where I went to school. It’s a completely volunteer-run foundation, and we’ve been able to give back over $3 million. Whether this cause means anything to you or it doesn’t, it means a whole lot to me.”

The Cy Young Award-winning pitcher says he enjoys lending his time to the event, and it’s no surprise the annual fundraiser has become such a success.

“Zim’s been here forever, and he’s the face of the franchise,” Scherzer said. “It’s for a great cause, and it gives everybody a chance to see the players in person; a great auction event with great items and a concert as well. He and Heather [Zimmerman’s wife] do a really good job of supporting the community.”

Learn more about the ziMS Foundation here.