WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — This past Sunday, after a morning workout at the Washington Nationals’ spring training facility, Ryan Zimmerman, Trea Turner, Kurt Suzuki, Patrick Corbin and Daniel Hudson played golf with President Trump at his private West Palm Beach resort. Zimmerman, the face of the Nationals for the past 15 years, saw and heard about the mixed reaction once the outing hit social media that evening.

Some people were angry that the group played with Trump, especially amid the coronavirus outbreak, ridiculing the president for participating in a leisure activity while the disease spreads across the country. Some felt the players should not be criticized for golfing with Trump. Others were indifferent.

“So much gets made of everything that we’ve done, and I’ve said all along, too, I got a chance to golf with George W. Bush over the all-star break last year. I’ve caught the first pitch from President [Barack] Obama and shook his hand and talked with him for 10 or 15 minutes,” Zimmerman explained. “For me, I love my country. We live in the greatest country in the world, and I honestly don’t think it’s close.

“As a kid, to be able to play golf with the president of the United States or be able to meet the presidents like I’ve had a chance to through baseball, I would have never, ever thought I would have that opportunity,” he continued. “So no matter who the president is, if they ask me to play golf, I’m going to play golf, whether you support the guy, don’t support the guy.”

When Zimmerman says “everything that we’ve done,” he is referring to this golf outing and the Nationals’ White House ceremony in November. They visited Trump there, two days after their World Series parade wound through Washington, and their actions were polarizing. Suzuki put on a “Make America Great Again” hat while Trump hugged him from behind. Zimmerman presented Trump with a No. 45 jersey and, as one of many players to address the crowd, said the team would “like to thank you for keeping everyone here safe in our country and continuing to make America the greatest country to live in in the world.”

Not all of the players were present that day, and White House championship ceremonies during the Trump era have been polarizing on their own. Closer Sean Doolittle declined the invite, saying: “I don’t want to hang out with somebody who talks like that.” He then cited Trump’s past comments about women, the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities. Zimmerman, who played with Doolittle at the University of Virginia, said Wednesday that he respects those who chose not to attend the White House visit.

“To be able to voice your opinion and say whatever you want, I think that’s awesome. For the guys that didn’t come to the White House, 100 percent their choice. No problem with it,” Zimmerman said. “You can stand for whatever you want to stand for. Some people love the president, some people don’t like the president, and some people don’t care about politics.

“But the fact of going to the White House, being able to celebrate, it’s more a symbol of this country and the ability to live in this great country.”

When Zimmerman acknowledged the differing opinions and how they clashed over this, he was asked to consider when Trump was booed during Game 5 of the World Series at Nationals Park and whether that showed how the team’s fan base feels.

“Based on who it is, 50 percent of the people in the country are not going to like him or her, and 50 percent of people in the country are going to like him or her,” Zimmerman said. “So it’s just a matter of what side you’re on. In this day and age, everyone’s voice is so much louder than it has been before, which I think is a good thing. That’s also another thing that you’re allowed to do in this country. You can disagree with me going.”

“It’s something me and those guys will never forget. And, dude, did some people not like it? Of course. Do I care about those opinions? I’m not going to say I care or don’t. They have their ability to think what they want about the president and us going to golf with him,” he continued. “I understand why people would be upset if they don’t agree with his politics or aren’t a fan of him. But any president that asks me to go to dinner or anything, I’m 100 percent going to.”

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