“What a performance by Stephen Strasburg! In 7 innings, the rookie has struck out 14 batters in his Major League debut! The Nationals right hander, despite the 2 runs he gave up, has dominated Pittsburgh!”
That is what you may have heard if you tuned into Charlie Slowes’ and Dave Jageler’s broadcast of the Nationals vs. Pirates game on WFED radio on June 8, 2010. The Nationals’ rookie pitcher Stephen Strasburg made his major league debut and crushed Jeff Karstens and his “mateys” on the Pirates 5 to 2. It was a packed house at Nationals Park with 40,315 fans cheering on Strasburg. The Nationals swept the Pirates in the series.
This post tells you how he got to the big leagues. Next, I will write about his major league career.
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Stephen James Strasburg was born on July 20, 1988 in San Diego, California. His parents Kathleen Swett and Joe Strasburg didn’t teach him how to play baseball; Stephen credits his maternal grandma for playing catch with him. She even helped him pitch.
In the 1980s and 90s, the San Diego Padres were one of the best teams in the MLB, so Stephen had a good hometown team to root for. His hero must’ve been Tony Gwynn, like any other kid in SoCal in the 90s. Back then, he probably loved baseball as much as I do now. But I would bet you a million dollars that he had no idea that there would one day be a baseball team in Washington again called the Nationals and that he would grow up to be their ace pitcher.
Stephen attended West Hills High School in Santee, California. He posted a 1-10 win-loss record in his junior year. Can you believe that? That means the Stephen Strasburg that you see every five days pitching for the Nationals and shutting down hitters like a lion eating a zebra, posted THAT losing record! By his senior year, however, he was the Nolan Ryan of all of high school baseball. He had 74 strikeouts, 62 1/3 innings pitched, and 7 complete games. That’s right, 7 complete games!
Stephen did not get drafted right out of high school in 2006. Instead, he enrolled at San Diego State University in the College West District of San Diego. If he instead attended Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA like he originally wanted, he would have been teammates with Drew Storen.
Stephen moved out of his dorm 5 days after he started college. He moved in with his mom instead. Most kids look forward to living in a college dormitory, that I know of. Stephen later explained, “I wasn’t the most mature guy out of high school, and moving to my mom’s gave me a place to sleep and relax. The dorm was an overload, too much, too soon.” It’s hard to think of Stephen Strasburg as being crazy in college because now he seems so calm on the Nationals.
He had a big dream to fulfill– pitching in the major leagues. He lost 30 pounds (he used to be 250 pounds in high school), because he went on a workout regimen. He became the San Diego State Aztecs’ closer. Opponents only hit a low .141 batting average against Stras in a Aztecs uniform. During the summer, Strasburg played for the Torrington Twisters of the NECBL (New England Collegiate Baseball League).
When he was a sophomore in ’08, he was converted to a starting pitcher, and he punched out almost everyone he faced. His collegiate coach was Padres great Tony Gwynn. He was one of the biggest influences on Strasburg. Gwynn was probably Stephen’s idol growing up. It must’ve been a dream for him to be playing with him.
Stephen was drafted by the Nationals in 2009, first overall. He played in the AFL (Arizona Fall League) for the Phoenix Desert Dogs. In April 2010, he made his MiLB (minor league) debut as part of the Harrisburg Senators against the Altoona Curve. ESPN broadcasted the Senators’ win over the Curve.
A few months later, he made his big league debut for the Nationals.
Stay tuned to Matt’s Bats to learn about Stephen Strasburg’s major league debut and the surprising injury that took him off the mound for a year. I’ll also talk about his come back in 2012 and my expectations for 2013.
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