CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — Ryan Zimmerman had a message to the capacity crowd that had gathered in Charlottesville on Saturday.

“I just wanted to say thank you,” Zimmerman said. “This is a huge honor, me and my family are very humble. Thank you guys so much. Both of you guys on both of these teams, enjoy the heck out of your time in college. It’s the greatest time of your life.”

It was a day for college baseball fans in the Commonwealth to remember as the former University of Virginia third baseman was honored at the school.

Nearly 6,000 fans showed up at Disharoon Park to witness Zimmerman’s No. 11 jersey get retired. And while most baseball fans remember him for his time with the Washington Nationals, which included a World Series title in 2019, Zimmerman has never forgotten his roots.

“This is kind of where it all started I guess. To comeback, to have the ultimate honor, it’s humbling,” Zimmerman said. “I mean there’s no chance I would be where I’m at without this place.”

He was an All-American at UVA and remains one of the top hitters in school history. Then he became a National in 2005 as their first-ever draft pick.

Now 17 years later, his career has come full circle in a moment he never expected.

“I wasn’t heavily recruited. I was a good player but I don’t think anyone thinks this stuff will happen. Maybe some guys do but I definitely didn’t,” Zimmerman said.

When you go through the record books, there’s plenty of numbers attached to Zimmerman’s name at both UVA and in Washington. But the number 11 is the only one that truly matters and now it sits permanently at Disharoon park above right field as Zimmerman becomes the first player in Virginia history to see his number retired.

“It’s just so rare to see a player of that magnitude, to do what they did at the highest level of baseball and then be so engaged back at the school they went to is really impressive and speaks to who he is as a man,” head coach Brian O’Connor said.

The Virginia Beach-native retired from the major leagues in February and while he does miss the sport, Zimmerman doesn’t miss the daily grind of playing it.

“It’s been different. Baseball’s way easier than being at home with four kids all day long. Not that I didn’t respect my wife before but it’s great,” Zimmerman said. “It’s good to be home. I get to be around for a lot of their school stuff and their sports.”

Between throwing a ceremonial first pitch and getting his name and number etched into history, Zimmerman got a bit emotional as the moment struck a chord. Although he admits, it happens more often now that he’s out of baseball and spending more time with family.

“You meet people and you enjoy the places you are like I did here, you have friendships and relationships that last your whole life. When something like this happens, all that kinda comes full circle and you realize all that stuff,” Zimmerman said.

And Zimmerman has the chance to get emotional again when the Nationals retire his No. 11 jersey in June.

“When you’re in the moment and you’re playing, you don’t have time to think about it but once you can sit back and actually think about all that stuff, it gets a little emotional.”