SBJ/20100802/This Week's News

Zimmerman’s deal gives him ballpark for charity event

Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman next week will host a charity fundraising event at Nationals Park for his multiple sclerosis foundation, marking the rare use of a major league facility by a player for his own purposes.

Zimmerman and his agent, CAA Sports’ Brodie Van Wagenen, negotiated the rent-free use of Nationals Park for one day per year into the five-year, $45 million contract Zimmerman signed early last year. The Aug. 9 event for the ziMS Foundation will be the first activation of that clause.

The intimate affair will feature a temporary stage built near the ballpark’s Presidents Club for musical acts Amos Lee and Mutlu, magician David Blaine, and a series of live and silent auctions.

The Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman with honorary
co-chairs Rep. Michael Burgess (left) and
Sen. Byron Dorgan

The event, dubbed “A Night At The Park,” is being designed to draw about 1,000 people and is likely to raise a six-figure sum after expenses for the four-year-old ziMS Foundation. Zimmerman’s mother, Cheryl, has suffered from MS for the past 15 years, prompting him to make the push for the annual stadium use during the contract negotiations.

If next week’s event is successful, Zimmerman said he will aim for larger events that make greater use of Nationals Park’s 41,888-seat capacity.

“The goal is to make this bigger and better every year,” Zimmerman said. “We’re looking to grow the foundation, and the way to do that is to have bigger and better events, and having something unique like this I hope will raise the awareness and excitement level for what we’re doing.”

The Nationals will aid in the event both through helping to promote it and staffing it for security, concessions, building maintenance and other functions. Team President Stan Kasten said Zimmerman’s stadium-use clause was the first one of this type he had negotiated with a player.

“We were happy to do this,” Kasten said. “Ryan’s very committed to this cause. The event’s going to be a very cool thing, and ideally will inspire more players to pursue similar projects.”

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