Ryan Zimmerman, the kid from Virginia Beach who idolized Cal Ripken, wanted to play only for the Washington Nationals the moment they drafted him. Zimmerman and the team grew up together, a superstar third baseman asserting himself and a franchise finding its way. Through even the grimmest moments, his allegiance did not waver.

"He was saying that from Day One," said Keith Zimmerman, his father. "I've never had a discussion with him about leaving the area."