FARGO — Will Zimmerman was on his way to the baseball field in Park River, N.D., in late May when he received a call from Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks manager Chris Coste.
Zimmerman was about to take batting practice with his dad, trying to stay sharp for an opportunity in professional baseball.
Coste had interest in Zimmerman.
“I said, ‘I’m two hours away, when do you need me there?’” Zimmerman said, recalling the interaction. “We stopped halfway, turned around, went and started packing everything up and took off to Fargo. I haven’t been home since.”
Coste called around noon. Zimmerman was in the RedHawks’ lineup later that evening, helping the team win that American Association game in walk-off fashion.
“When I called him to see if he was interested, his first question was ‘What time is the game?’ It goes to show you that the kid is a ballplayer,” Coste said.
Zimmerman, who turned 23 on Thursday, July 1, has been a dynamic rookie. He belted three hits, including two doubles, and scored three runs in a 10-9 victory against Winnipeg on Thursday, batting leadoff and playing center field.
“There’s some weird electricity around the kid and he plays that way,” Coste said. “He’s a manager’s dream at this level because he can do so many different things. … He finds a way to be in the middle of drama on the field and it’s fun to watch.”
The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Zimmerman is batting .317 with three doubles, two triples, three home runs and 16 RBIs in 25 games. He's scored 23 runs heading into the RedHawks' three-game series against the Milwaukee Milkmen at 7:02 p.m. Friday, July 2, at Newman Outdoor Field.
“It’s like he burst on the scene, and not only started producing, but did things that got the crowd on its feet,” Coste said.
In Zimmerman’s first game with the RedHawks, his sacrifice bunt led to the throwing error and the winning run being scored in a walk-off victory against Houston on May 28. The next night, Zimmerman belted a home run for his first professional hit.
Zimmerman said that was a special moment with his mother, Anastasia, and father, Brent, watching the drama unfold. Zimmerman said his mom relayed how his dad reacted after that milestone hit.
“My dad was going absolutely crazy in the stands,” Zimmerman said. “It was awesome to hear.”
Zimmerman has also shown grit to go along with his highlight moments.
In early June, Zimmerman was struck in the face with a mid-90s fastball in Gary, Ind. Coste said Zimmerman wanted to stay in the game against Gary SouthShore, despite a cut in his mouth that required around 10 stitches.
“He’s North Dakota steel, he’s a tough kid,” Coste said. “He was mad that he had to come out of the game.”
Zimmerman went to a nearby hospital to treat the injury. While he was in the waiting room, Zimmerman said the hospital was put on lockdown for nearby gunfire.
“It was an eventful night to say the least,” said Zimmerman, who only missed a couple games after that injury.
Zimmerman has made a habit of making diving catches in the outfield and also had an acrobatic spinning throw from left field to throw out a runner at second base earlier this season. He recently made ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 for a diving catch in center field against the Chicago Dogs on June 21 at Newman Outdoor Field.
“Making No. 3 on SportsCenter Top 10 was pretty cool,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman said he relishes flying through the air in the outfield.
“It’s just kind of an effort thing,” he said. “For me, it’s a lot of fun being able to go and make a diving catch. My intent right off the bat is I’m going to catch this ball. If I’ve got to dive, I’ve got to dive.”
Zimmerman grew up on a farm 12 miles north of Park River and played football, hockey and baseball, and competed in track and field in high school.
Zimmerman played his first two college baseball seasons at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, before he went to Arkansas State for a season. He then played two seasons at Minnesota-Crookston where he played for head coach Steve Gust at UMC.
Zimmerman played his final game for the Golden Eagles about a week before he signed with the RedHawks. Before Coste called, he was planning on heading to Colorado the next day for a tryout in the Pecos League, an independent league with teams located in California, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas and Texas.
“I was very thankful for getting a call close to home,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman said Coste has believed in his ability since he joined the team.
“He’s had the most faith in me that I’ve had in a long time,” Zimmerman said. “He keeps giving me confidence and I’m really thankful for that and I kind of owe it all to him. … I can’t thank Coste enough. I can’t thank coach Gust enough. It’s incredible.”
Zimmerman said his parents have driven to most RedHawks home games since he joined the team, and his dad also traveled to recent road games at Milwaukee. Zimmerman added his father has played a vital role in his athletic success. His mother has been a huge fan, too.
“He’s done absolutely everything for me forever, my entire life,” Zimmerman said of his father. “You’ve got to make the most out of your opportunities. I had to do some good things in order to get my name out and truly earn a spot on a pro team. I’m hoping to just keep it going.”