NORFOLK, Va. — Ryan Zimmerman may have been sitting at the podium at National's Park for the last time. It's unclear if his new job with the organization will require a media presence, so for now he's fielding questions from a familiar gaggle of Washington media with an air of finality. His number is about to be retired, the first National to receive the honor. He fields questions about the 2019 World Series, injuries, comebacks, an entire career spent in Washington and of course his baseball roots in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
When Ryan Zimmerman talks about his amateur baseball journey, however, he talks about more than just himself. Such is life when you came up the ranks as part of an unprecedented talent eruption. From 1997 through 2005, the southeast corner of Virginia more closely resembled hotbeds like California or Florida in terms of talent production.
Over the course of eight years Hampton Roads, and more specifically Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, produced 6 prolific major league hitters. Great Bridge's Michael Cuddyer came first, drafted 9th in 1997 and turning the Tidewater into a legitimate stop on the scouting circuit.
Then the floodgates opened. First Colonial's Mark Reynolds, Greenbrier Christian's BJ Upton, Great Bridge's Justin Upton (the first brothers to go 1st and 2nd in the MLB draft) Hickory's David Wright and Zimmerman all drafted between 2001 and 2005.
Altogether, the 6 players included 4 top 9 picks (Justin Upton #1, BJ #2, Zimmerman #4 and Cuddyer #9). The group combined for 15 all star game selections, and more than 723 million dollars in career earnings.
At one point Reynolds, BJ, Wright, Zimmerman and Justin (mostly as a pinch runner due to his age) appeared on the same local showcase team. They rotated defensive positions, creating a 641 million dollar infield.
With Zimmerman's retirement, only Justin remains in the big leagues, recently getting a call up from the Mariners. Even after the youngest member of the golden generation retires, the group's impact on Hampton Roads will remain. Once skipped over my scouts, the 757 requires major attention, thanks to one unforgettable era.