Just because Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg has switched oceans, that does not prevent fans of his native San Diego from keeping up with the young pitching phenom.
Today, Strasburg makes his sixth big league start, first time against the New York Mets, once again before a nationally televised audience.
(Programming Note: The game has been selected to be televised by Fox, as part of Major League Baseball’s national television agreement with Fox to televise a Saturday afternoon Game of the Week. Because of MLB’s national broadcast restrictions, the game cannot be televised by MASN.)
Jay Posner, sports editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune, told me that San Diego is watching Strasburg develop from 3,000 miles away, finding every means possible to watch or listen to his exploits.
“People are very excited,” Posner said. “A year ago when he was pitching here, I went to several of his games at San Diego State. Games that would normally draw 400 people at Tony Gwynn Stadium were drawing 3,000 or 4,000 fans, producing a really electric atmosphere.
“He seems to be the very same guy he was when he was here in San Diego, very unaffected and just dominating as a pitcher. I was watching his first start and I thought, ‘he is making these major league hitters look like Air Force hitters.’
“I think the biggest disappointment was the Nationals didn’t call him up at the end of May when they were here and he didn’t get to pitch at Petco Park where he pitched one of his games in college.
“And now we are hearing that Strasburg will miss the Padres by one day on their trip back to Washington (San Diego, July 6-8; tentatively scheduled for July 9 vs. S.F. Giants). That is the biggest disappointment is the fans won’t get to see him pitch against the Padres.”
How have San Diego fans of Strasburg kept up with his first few starts?
“His first game here was on MLB Network, which is only available in half the homes here in San Diego, and yet that game did a 2.6 rating here and it was on at the same time as a Padres game which did a 4.2.
“That is pretty good run for Strasburg and the Nationals because it is not like normally that people would be watching the Nationals here in San Diego.
“I happened to go to a Padre game on the Sunday he was pitching in Cleveland. I went to a restaurant before the game and there were two televisions in the bar. One of them had the Strasburg game on and the other had the World Cup on and this is a pretty big soccer market.”
Is San Diego known as a hot bed for baseball?
“Baseball is big here and the weather has so much to do with that because the kids can play all year round.
“College teams were kind of upset here a couple of years ago when the NCAA put in some rules that the season had to start later. Teams here used to start late January or early February. Most of the country was not even thinking about baseball at a time like that. It is a big advantage. A lot of good players have come from here.
“Of the two college programs, the University of San Diego has actually been the better program than San Diego State. Brian Matusz, who pitches for the Orioles, is from University of San Diego. Strasburg has been the best guy at State in some time or probably (ever).”
Is the potential of Strasburg pretty limitless if he can keep pitching as well as he has to start his career?
“I really think so. It is interesting because you do see pitchers like this. You see Mark Prior trying to make another comeback. It is pretty sad what happened to a guy like that because he was the Strasburg of that time and that was not that long ago. Whenever I watch Strasburg I cannot wait to see him pitch. But in the back of my mind I just keep thinking I really hope this guy stays healthy. There are just not that many guys that come along like Strasburg that have that kind of stuff.”
“I think this is why he has created such a buzz. Everybody realizes that his talent is very unique. It does not come around that often. I would love to see him have a long career.”