from Space Coast Stadium
Tuesday March 9, 2010
It's STRASBURG DAY! The ballpark, indeed the entire East Coast, maybe all of Western civilization is abuzz with anticipation.
In the press box at Space Coast Stadium the National's press staff is busily putting place cards in front of chairs for reporters who have called in advance that they want to be here for this once-in-a-millennium event.
I remember when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I was in OCS in the Ohio National Guard and we were told we had to go to bed. I said that a human was only going to walk on the moon for the first time once and tonight was the night and if I had to quit to stay up and watch it, I quit.
A serious consult among the Tac Officers ensued and they saw the wisdom - or at least the logic - of my thinking and we were allowed to stay up.
Today is going to be the first time - forever - that Stephen Strasburg will throw a pitch against a full slate of opposing major league hitters and there are a lot of reporters here to watch it.
For those who have not followed the off-season activities of the Washington Nationals, let me review the bidding:
Two years ago the Washington Nationals had the worst record in baseball with 102 losses and, thus, had the first overall pick in the amateur draft. They couldn't make a deal with their number one pick which cast a pall over the Nationals' front office generally and the Lerner family (principal owners) in particular. The player, Aaron Crow, still hasn't made it to the majors, but is now in the Kansas City Royals organization and is hoping to make the jump this year.
Then came the 2009 draft. The Nationals had 103 losses and were again rewarded with the number one pick.
This kid Stephen Strasburg has been attracting attention since he started playing catch with his dad and a beach ball in his backyard at about two-and-a-half.
By the time he got to San Diego State University, he was tabbed as a potential high draft choice and in his senior year he was a lock for number one.
The Nationals went to the well and gave him a $15 million contract - the largest for any amateur athlete in history. Since the day he was signed, he has been treated like he was a $15 million property.
Sports writers flew to the Nationals' training facility here last year to watch Strasburg take his first practice pitches as a professional. In the Arizona League his every outing was covered like he was pitching in the World Series. Since training camp opened here, every practice pitch to every catcher with or without a batter in the box (the batters were instructed not to swing) has been duly reported with accompanying quotes from players who had also stopped to watch.
Which brings us to today. Stephen Strasburg day. Early this morning the press box crew was suggesting that perhaps he could be carried to the mount by two of the larger members of the Nationals. Someone else said they should flood center field and let Strasburg walk on the water to the middle of the infield.
The scoop is, he appears to be a good kid who has his head on straight - or on as straight as a kid in his early 20s with 15 million in the bank can have it.
More on Taiwanese right hander Chein-Ming Wang. Once again the press box was jammed with reporters, camera men, photographers, and producers speaking what I think was Chinese. Adding to that the number of out-of-town baseball writers who are in for STRASBURG DAY today and I got tossed out of my seat in the press box.
Members of the Baseball Writers Association have first dibs on press box seats, and even with the overflow areas which the Nationals' press staff had organized, there wasn't any room for me. The Nats press staff took it seriously, though and I ended up in the Nationals' executive suite overlooking home plate one deck above the press box.
Please don't throw me into the briar patch.
Here's the shot from a balcony down the first base line, of Strasburg's first pitch:
This is how Bill Ladsen (writer for MLB.com) saw Strasburg's first inning facing major league batters:
Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, made his Spring Training debut against the Tigers at Space Coast Stadium on Tuesday afternoon and pitched two scoreless innings.
In the first inning, Strasburg retired the Tigers in order. His pitches were clocked no lower than 96 mph.
In the second inning, Strasburg faced the tough part of the order. He threw two 81-mph curveballs to Miguel Cabrera before striking out the slugger on a 98-mph fastball.
The next hitter, Carlos Guillen, grounded out to Ryan Zimmerman on a 97-mph fastball. After giving up consecutive singles to Don Kelly and Alex Avila, Strasburg regrouped and struck out Brent Dlugach looking on an 81-mph curveball.
Strasburg threw 27 pitches, 15 for strikes.
In the end, the Nationals lost the game, 9-4 but it was a great day for the franchise.