MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Zimmerman volunteers at Food & Friends

First baseman joins wife, members of Nats organization to package meals for people with critical illnesses

Zimmerman volunteers at Food & Friends

WASHINGTON -- Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, his wife, Heather, and members of the Nationals' front office spent time volunteering at Food & Friends, an organization that delivers nutritious meals to needy people with critical illnesses, on Monday afternoon.

Ryan and Heather, wearing gloves, aprons and black hair nets, grabbed cooked turkeys off baking trays, wrapped them in tin foil and packaged them in boxes for delivery. This Thursday, Food & Friends will deliver 3,500 Thanksgiving meals for D.C.-area residents living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses. This is Zimmerman's second consecutive year helping F&F, while the Nationals have been involved with the organization for eight consecutive years.

"We enjoy coming out here," Zimmerman said. "It's something we are lucky enough to do. The people at Food & Friends are nice, and they are doing it for the right reasons. We enjoy coming out for an hour or two, packing some dinners up and helping some people to enjoy Thanksgiving that maybe wouldn't have been able to otherwise."

How fast was Zimmerman during the event? He must have boxed more than 50 turkeys within one hour, which impressed Craig M. Shniderman, the executive director of F&F. Shniderman said whenever he sees Zimmerman doing volunteer work, it means that he cares.

"Ryan and Heather are interested in people who are living with illness," Shniderman said. "They have a foundation which is addressing the need of people with MS, so they have a special feeling for what we do.

"When the Nationals are here, we get twice as much work done as opposed to when anyone else is here. … The physical abilities of professional baseball players are really good at Food & Friends. We appreciate the support of the Nationals, the ownership of the Nationals and everyone associated with the team. They are very committed to the community."

Food & Friends' services are free to recipients who qualify solely based on their health status and nutritional need. Monday through Saturday, including holidays, staff and volunteers deliver to 5,300 square miles, including the District of Columbia, seven counties in Maryland, and seven counties and six independent cities in Virginia. Since 1988, Food & Friends has delivered more than 18 million meals to 26,000 individuals.

So what do Zimmerman and his family plan to do this Thanksgiving? They will go to North Carolina and spend time with his father's side of the family. Pretty soon, though, Zimmerman plans to have his own Thanksgiving festivities.

"Eventually we'll start to transition," he said. "Make everyone see us now that we have a kid. We can use that as an excuse. You can make your traditions at home."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashinNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.