What's it like to face Stephen Strasburg?

As we get ready to embark on the first "Strasburg game" March 9th on MASN, I had a chance to check in with a collegiate coach that watched his team face Stephen Strasburg in the NCAA tournament and also coached Ryan Zimmerman.

What's it like to face Strasburg? What did Zimmerman mean to the University of Virginia program? What's it like to be ranked #1?

One person can answer all of these questions; it's UVA head baseball coach Brian O'Connor.

The Cavaliers took on Strasburg and San Diego State last year in the NCAA Tournament. In that game, Strasburg allowed just 2 runs and struck out 15 Cavaliers, but Virginia was able to get the win, 5-1.

O'Connor was very impressed with Strasburg, saying "in my years of playing college baseball and coaching college baseball he is hands down the best pitcher I have seen on the field."


Audio: Byron with UVA coach Brian O'Connor about what it's like to face Stephen Strasburg

Strasburg told me later he felt like he "failed" in that game. The young righty might have been a little hard on himself, but it brings up a good point about the game.

Baseball is a game of failure. A batter who fails to get a hit 3 out of 5 at bats has still had a good game at the plate. It's a game where a player learns how to handle such failures on a game by game, at-bat by at-bat basis, throughout his career.

Coach O'Connor says it is obviously up to the Nats how to handle Strasburg, but he feels starting him at the minor league level might be a good thing for Stephen.

"If (Strasburg) went immediately to the major league level, there is going to be some failure there and he hasn't failed a whole lot in his career," O'Connor says. "How is he going to manage that emotionally?

"I am sure the Nationals will make the right decision whether to bring him up right away or season him a little bit in the minor leagues. Strasburg definitely has the ability of a big leaguer, there is no question."

O'Connor also spoke about his relationship with Zimmerman. The Nats' third baseman kept in touch with O'Connor during last year's UVA title run and has been a great example for the University on and off the field (Zimmerman donated $250,000 to Virginia's baseball program last season).

Virginia's skipper also talks about what it's like to be a collegiate coach during the season, sharing his insight on how the coaches take advantage of every off day, including squeezing in a trip to New York to visit a recruit between mid-week games back home.

It's similar to what Mike Rizzo goes through on a day-in and day-out basis to make the Nats a better team year after year.

I'm betting Rizzo and the scouting staff will monitor the talent laden Cavaliers or even take the quick two-hour drive to Davenport Field to watch a few games this year as the team prepares for the June amateur draft.

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