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Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, like many of you,spent his early twenties at Town Hall in Glover Park. That’s where he first connected with Jeremy Carman of Long Shot Hospitality. Now that Carman and his partners are gearing up to open The Salt Line a short throw from Nationals Park, the duo is taking their friendship to the the next level. Zimmerman’s getting into the restaurant game as an investor and part-owner of the New England-inspired ale house slated to open this spring at Dock 79 (79 Potomac Ave. SE).
“Ryan’s cool because a lot of athletes aren’t in town for as long as he has been. He has real roots here,” Carman says. Indeed, Zimmerman is about to enter his 13th season with the Nats, and unlike some players, he doesn’t jet off after the last crack of the bat, because D.C. is home. Rather, he spends his off season hitting hotspots with his wife, Heather.
“We make a point to go out once every two weeks or once a week from November until now,” Zimmerman says. He and Heather have two young daughters, but they still make a point to try five to ten restaurants. “That’s our guilty pleasure. Some people like to go to the movies, but we like nice food and nice drinks, which ties into why I wanted to get into the restaurant industry.”
Zimmerman says his advisor cautioned him that restaurants can be a risky investment, but he’s moving forward because he believes in how Long Shot Hospitality (also behind Sixth Engine and The Dubliner) runs things. Specifically, he likes that when he visits their bars and restaurants the owners are there, sometimes even slinging drinks behind the bar. “They work there, they take pride in their places, and they’re worried about more than making enough money,” Zimmerman says.
The Salt Line’s proximity to the ballpark was clutch for the slugger. “It makes sense because it’s right next to the stadium so there’s an obvious tie-in,” he says. “The area used to be pretty tough, but they’ve done a good job at making it more livable. To see it in 2008 when we first went there, and now to have hotels and nice restaurants, it’s a cool thing to be a part of.”
Carman agrees the location was key to the deal. “If we were opening up a neighborhood restaurant in Upper Northwest up by where I live, I don’t know if it would have worked, but the idea of it being by the ballpark and him being able to reinvest in the neighborhood and work with local operators ended up being a good opportunity.”
Zimmerman plans to be at the the restaurant often, and is most looking forward to Chef Kyle Bailey’s lobster roll and raw bar selections.
While Zimmerman says he’s at least three, four, or five years out from retiring from baseball, he’s starting to think about next steps. “The hardest thing for [retiring] athletes is to have to find something they’re passionate about,” he says. “This is sort of a first step, a way of seeing if I really like it and enjoy it. I know I like food.”
Creative Commons photo of Ryan Zimmerman by Flickr user Keith Allison