Ace for an Ace
Jordan Zimmermann was dominant against the defending American League Champion Detroit Tigers on Monday, setting down the final 18 batters he faced after allowing a leadoff single to begin the game. And as impressive as he was in dismantling one of the best offenses in baseball, he accomplished a feat even more rare off the field just last week.
As they have done each of the last three years, a collection of Nationals players, coaches and staff joined together for a par three scramble challenge on the Doral course near Space Coast Stadium last Monday night. With the off day on Tuesday, the tradition allowed for the group to come together off the field and bond over some friendly competition.
If you didn’t already know, the Nationals feature a number of very good golfers, mostly members of the pitching staff, particularly the bullpen. Each group of four on the course had a designated A, B, C and D player, based on respective skill. Zimmermann, whose golf score hovers around his fastball – somewhere in the mid-90s, according to the pitcher – was the “C” player on Tyler Clippard’s squad, which began the day on the third hole, just over 100 yards long. And while Clippard may have been the designated “A” player, it didn’t take long for Zimmermann to establish himself as the ringer of the team.
“First swing of the day,” explained Zimmermann. “I pulled my pitching wedge, spun it back, and it went in.”
A hole-in-one on his very first swing, and style points to boot with the backspin.
Along with Clippard, Zimmermann’s team included Syracuse Chiefs hitting coach and “B” player Troy Gingrich, as well as Nationals strength and conditioning coach John Philbin, holding down the “D” player spot. Together, they combined to go 11 under par over 18 holes, forcing a playoff.
On the first playoff hole, Zimmermann again stepped up to finish what he had so masterfully started.
“He buried a 20-footer to win,” said Clippard, whose team knocked off the foursome of Drew Storen, Rick Eckstein, Harrisburg Senators pitching coach Paul Menhart and Kurt Suzuki.
It was both Clippard and Zimmermann’s first win in the tournament’s three-year history, but Philbin’s second consecutive win. Simply known as “Coach” to most in the clubhouse, they gave him a hard time for backing into his success again.
“Somehow Coach always finds his way onto the winning team,” said Zimmermann, who certainly earned the right to make the joke.
The par three scramble challenge will no doubt remain an annual tradition, as it is one of the only times all year the entire team is able to convene outside of the ballpark, just relax, and enjoy each other’s company.
“I wish we could do it once a week,” said Clippard of the event.
Of course, winning probably helps.