“It’s good to be home:” Wisconsin native, who played Division III baseball in college, pitches in the bigs at Miller Park
MILWAUKEE (WITI) — It’s always nice for an athlete to have a homecoming of sorts. However, it’s not always easy — especially if you’re from a town of just 700 people. The Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann got that chance once again on Tuesday, June 24th at Miller Park.
Taking the mound as a member of the Washington Nationals’ pitching staff is another day at work for Jordan Zimmermann.
He’s been on the staff with the Nationals since April of 2009.
But every time he comes to Miller Park and takes the mound, it’s a little different.
“It’s a nice ballpark and I’ve pitched here a few other times, so it’s always nice. The fans are great and, you know, it’s good to be home,” Zimmermann said.
For Zimmermann, a Wisconsin native, Miller Park is as close as he’ll get to his real home when it comes to his profession.
“It’s great, you know. It’s only a three-hour drive from home, so it’s pretty close for everyone to travel down here,” Zimmermann said.
Zimmermann’s true home is right in the center of Wisconsin — the Village of Auburndale.
In the 2010 census, the population of the tiny village was just 703 people.
Now, he lives in the Washington, D.C. area — the seventh-largest metro area in the country, with nearly six million people.
“It’s kind of weird to look back and think that. But, you know, all those small towns, there’s always good athletes that come out of there. I’m just happy to be one of the very few to make it to the big league level,” Zimmermann said.
Another of those athletes to make it to the top of his sport out of Auburndale High School is someone Zimmermann is very familiar with — former Badgers and Packers star Mark Tauscher.
“I knew who he was. His dad was a basketball coach of ours growing up the whole time. So I’d see Mark every once in a while, you know, come back and scrimmage and do whatever,” Zimmermann said.
It was easy for Zimmermann to follow Tauscher, because like most kids who grow up in Wisconsin, he bleeds green and gold, and is a rabid Packers fan.
“I still get to focus on it in the off-season, you know. I’m watching every game on Sunday and make it to a few games during the off-season and head over to Lambeau and tailgating is a big thing over there so it’s a fun time,” Zimmermann said.
When baseball season rolls around, Zimmermann says he was a big fan of the Milwaukee Brewers — the team three hours down the road.
“Ben Sheets was the guy I watched a lot. Didn’t make it to many games but when I did I liked watching Ben Sheets and Geoff Jenkins and guys like that,” Zimmermann said.
Like Ben Sheets, Zimmermann would become an All-Star. He was selected to the 2013 National League All-Star Team.
That year, he had his best season so far as a pro — going 19-9 with an ERA of 3.25 — including a one-hitter against the Reds on April 26th.
Some have called Zimmermann’s rise meteoric.
Before reaching the Big Leagues, he had only two years in the minors.
Plus, he played baseball for Division III UW-Stevens Point — something he takes pride in.
“It’s just big for the school to have guys come out of there, and kids growing up can see that and want to go to UWSP. You know, it’s just big for the school,” Zimmermann said.
While the Nationals won’t be back to Wisconsin this season, unless there’s a playoff match-up, the pitcher on the game’s biggest stage will come back after the final game to that small village in the center of the state.
“I have a place in Auburndale and I go home every off-season and Auburndale is my home so, I’ll be staying there for awhile,” Zimmermann said.
Zimmermann didn’t disappoint in his only game in Wisconsin this year — going six innings and striking out nine.