In front of a sell-out crowd of 7,887 on a beautiful Sunday in Altoona, Pa., baseball fans in small town Pennsylvania got a glimpse at the future of the Washington Nationals. Just over nine months ago, the Nationals drafted an ace and a closer, Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen, two very different young men who will, over time, be asked to accept important roles in the organization's future.
On Sunday, the duo did what they hope to continue doing in Washington for years to come. Pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, whose start brought 70 additional members of the media to a Double-A game, went five innings and threw 82 pitches including 58 strikes for Harrisburg. He struck out eight batters along the way while displaying his impressive repertoire of pitches. Radar guns consistently clocked his fastball at 97-99 miles per hour.
Though the highly touted prospect threw 24 pitches in the first inning alone, he quickly settled down and cruised through the next four innings.
"I knew that I was moving a little too quick out there," he said. "I had the adrenaline pumping...you get so amped up out there. You really gotta harness it."
Storen collected a four-out save in the game. It was Strasburg's first professional win and Storen's first save of the season. That's the combination Nationals fans hope to see in Washington before long.
Nationals fans came in droves to catch a glimpse of the budding star pitchers. And their presence in Altoona was certainly noticed and appreciated.
"It's one of those things where people asked me when I got picked, 'How do you feel about the Nationals? They are struggling right now.' And, that's one of the reasons I decided to be here," said Storen.
"We're in Altoona, PA and there are Nats fans coming out to the game. You've got thousands of Nationals fans wearing [Strasburg's] jersey. And that's a comment about what's going to change. It's cool to be part of this day and hopefully, it's a sign of things to come."
Bruno Furth, a Nationals fan from the Maryland suburbs, has been following Strasburg's success since the pitcher's senior year at San Diego State. Furth made the day trip up to Altoona to catch the game.
"We want to see him in Washington soon," he said. "It's cool that he's here. I understand why he's here, but he's going to come up [soon] and solidify the rotation and help the whole team."
"We're excited to see how well he does," said Ernie Miller of Burke, VA. Miller also drove up with his family for the game.
Storen and Strasburg both understand their unique roles in this story and both have things to learn in order to be ready to contribute in a big way when they arrive at Nationals Park.
"Right now, there's things I need to work on and there's things I need to improve on. I'm going to focus on that right now," Strasburg said. "Hopefully, my time will come soon."
Harrisburg Senators manager Randy Knorr mentioned before the game that Strasburg will spend his time in the minors adjusting to the five day pitching schedule, learning to field his position and dealing with unique game situations. Storen, who Knorr described as "very close" to being ready, will be working on back to back days or in multi-inning games to prepare him for a versatile relief spot in Washington.
The Senators head to Bowie, MD for a three game series beginning on Monday evening. Strasburg's next start will be in Harrisburg at the newly renovated Metro Bank Park on Friday, April 16th.