Okay, so let’s just say I offered you two tickets to see the Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Washington Nationals on June 8th before the season had started. I am quite sure you would look at the tickets with a raised eyebrow and toss a sarcastic “gee, thanks” my way. With no disrespect to the two teams involved they have brought very little to the baseball table over the years, so this would have seemed like another meaningless game. So why are people suddenly a buzz for it, and why are the tickets becoming so hard to get? Enter baseballs next “phenom”, 21-year old right handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg.
[adinserter block=”2″]Hype? Oh you better believe it. Since being the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, Stephen Strasburg has been watched by every media person, every baseball person, heck anyone who gives a dribble about Washington and the Nationals. He is 6 foot 4 inches, and 220 pounds of intimidation. His fastball has been clocked between 95 and 100 mph, which is insane for a kid of 21 years old. What did he bring to Triple A ball? Oh a ho-hum 3-1 record, with an ERA of 1.27. He has a curve ball that will break you at the knees if you’re not careful. Through all this, he pitches with a calm presence. At times he loses the strike zone, but remembers the location real quick with a human GPS system that runs his baseball mind on the mound.
Just how geeked up are the Washington Nationals? Well they expect to see a sell-out crowd for the game, and ticket sales have moved along nicely. In fact if you check ticket trading websites like StubHub.com, you will see Washington Nationals’ tickets for every other game start at about 6 dollars. However if you look at June 8th and the prices there, you will see tickets starting at $70 dollars as of today for the highest tickets in the barn. Yes many will come, many will pay, and they will get a fair view of Strasburg. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said that the team would like six innings or 95 pitches out of him. Not a bad deal if he pitches like he is hyped.
Okay, so the Pittsburgh Pirates are not the most deadliest team in baseball, but you do have to proceed with caution here. They picked a home game, on a warm Tuesday night in DC. Did you expect a game in late September against the Phillies, or the Mets? No, the Nationals have done this right. Let the home town crowd see him first and make it a game they can handle as a team. Hey you are sending out your franchise’s future right in the middle of super sports hype like the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals. The move has to make a bold statement. Timing is of the essence, and any other half-hearted plan would make this debut look more like a regular season 3 episode of “Lost” instead of the finale (terms I hope the television world will understand and get the nature of this).
[adinserter block=”1″]We have been down this road a few times before watching late teens like Dwight Gooden and Ben McDonald make pro debuts, but something about this just smells sweeter. This is after all being hyped as the “Year of the pitcher.” Strikeouts are way up, two perfect games have been pitched already, and check out the staggering stats by some hurlers in the league thus far. Also the fact that super agent Scott Boras was able to land this kid a four-year, 15 million dollar contract on a team that has done zero the last few seasons. It is as much a feel good story for a sports town as you can get. The right arm of a youngster that can make people care again about the sport. Hey, let’s not get carried away here. Let’s step back and see what we have here.
So despite titles on the line in two other major sports, I’m sure I will make an effort to see this game and watch this kid pitch. The stage is his, and his hard work and talent will pay off. Will it pay off big, or simply fizzle is a long time in waiting. With baseball’s next draft coming up in the next few days, Strasburg’s twinkling star can easily pass us by, quicker then the first team to pick can say Bryce Harper! It should make for an epic day however. Good luck kid!
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