Work on Nats new stadium progressing
Zimmerman, Logan, O'Connor tour ballpark on Monday
WASHINGTON -- Yankee Stadium is known as "The House That Ruth Built." Is it possible that the Nationals' new ballpark could be dubbed "The House That Zim Built?" It's very possible.
Right now, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is the face of the Nationals, and if he continues to be the team's best all-around player, he will be the first that comes to mind when one enters the new stadium in 2008.
Humble as always, Zimmerman laughed when told of the possible nickname and declined to look at himself as the face of the team.
"I don't know if you can put Ruth and me in the same sentence, but I guess that's what everyone is saying now, that I'm the young guy they are supposed to build around," Zimmerman said. "That's a pretty big thing, especially with all the good players we have, with [Austin] Kearns and [Felipe]) Lopez. [Cristian] Guzman is going to be healthy. [We have] Nick Johnson. A lot of people don't realize how many good baseball players that we have."
Wearing a hard hat, Zimmerman -- along with center fielder Nook Logan, left-hander Mike O'Connor and broadcaster Charlie Slowes -- set foot in the ballpark site, between Half Street SE and M Street SE, on Monday afternoon.
Visitors could see the unfinished right-field section -- which will include the main concourse, club level, suite level and upper concourse -- and several cranes. Ronnie Strompf, the vice president and senior project superintendent of Clark, Hunt and Smoot Construction, gave Zimmerman, O'Connor, Logan and Slowes a tour. They first walked from the outfield toward home plate, and Zimmerman took some practice swings for the cameras.
"It's cool. Me and [teammate Brian] Schneider drove out here a couple of months ago, and it wasn't anywhere near this," Zimmerman said. "I've seen the amount of progress they have made and how hard they are working. It's really special for us.
"It's good to have a stadium that is only ours and for our fans, who will come and watch us only. It will be a nice place to play. We are grateful to all these workers."
The new stadium will cost more than $600 million, and Strompf expects it to be ready by Opening Day 2008. The framing of the park is expected to be done by July 4, and the construction crew will work on the field soon after.
It helps that the area has experienced good weather for most of the offseason, with the temperature in the 60s at times.
"We have been getting three or four inches of rain at a time," Strompf said. "That has been kind of frustrating, but the temperature has been very, very good to work with. We have been very lucky. Normally, our winters are six to eight weeks. We'll be coming out of the winter in four weeks."
On this Monday afternoon, however, the temperature was in the low 30s, and the wind-chill factor made it feel colder. Some workers had to call it a day because the winds were as high as 40 mph.
"If the wind goes over 25 miles per hour, with the high cranes, they really can't operate efficiently to control the loads," said Strumpf. "Safety-wise, we shut that down."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.