Erick Fedde has only been to the East Coast once, when he played in the Cape Cod League last summer. So he was a wide-eyed tourist when he arrived in Washington on Monday night, looked around the city and visited the monuments on Tuesday morning, and then paid his first visit to Nationals Park to officially sign his contract and take part in a press conference.
During batting practice, the Nationals’ 2014 first-round pick‘s father took photos of Nationals players taking swings like regular fans. Stephen Strasburg, also a Tommy John survivor, stopped to talk with Fedde, who underwent the same surgery two days before he was selected by the Nationals with the 18th overall pick. Fedde and his brother both smiled at each other after Strasburg walked away.
And after Fedde met with the press, he posed for photos in a new Nationals jersey with Bryce Harper, a former Las Vegas High teammates, and Manager Matt Williams, a former UNLV player like Fedde.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Fedde said of his visit and tour. “They have treated me so well. They have shown me around. I had to do a little photo shoot, the jersey. It’s every kid’s dream. It’s just awesome that it’s coming true.”
The Nationals drafted Fedde — a lanky 6-foot-4 right-hander with a mid-90s fastball and killer slider — and handed him a signing bonus of nearly $2.5 million because they believe he is a top talent even with a hurt elbow. And with their track record of rehabbing pitchers from Tommy John surgery such as Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Lucas Giolito, the Nationals felt they could do the same with Fedde.
The process, however, hasn’t been fun for Fedde so far. Because he said his flexor tendon also underwent some work during the surgery, Fedde said his recovery process may be a little longer. The brace was removed from his right arm a few weeks ago and he hasn’t been able to do much. On Wednesday, he will head to Viera to begin the long rehab process in humid Florida weather.
“I’ve been sitting around for too long,” he said. “I’m just ready to get going and back to baseball.”
Two of Fedde’s UNLV teammates have been through the Tommy John rehab process and have offered advice. Strasburg gave Fedde some of his own. “He just said, ‘Trust the system and let it work itself out,'” Fedde said. The day the Nationals drafted Fedde, General Manager Mike Rizzo reminded the right-hander of the Nationals’s confidence in being able to help him recover.
“He told me they had great facilities and guys have gone through it and come out,” Fedde said. “I can see it on the field, because they’re being successful. I’m so excited to go to Florida and meet all the guys who have brought back Strasburg and Zimmermann.”
Rizzo was happy to see Fedde and his family, and talk to both of them for an extended amount of time.
“It’s good to see him,” he said. “I haven’t seen him face-to-face in a long time. He looks great. He looks fit and in good spirits. And really champing at the bit to get going in Florida and continue his rehab under our protocol.”
During his visit to Nationals Park on Tuesday, Fedde also got to see his old friend and teammate Harper, who he has known since he was seven. The two grew up in the same area of Las Vegas, played basketball and football together, and attended the same middle school and high school. When Fedde was drafted, Harper sent him a text message of congratulations. “I’m looking forward to playing with you,” Fedde said the message from Harper read.
“I’ve still got a lot of work to do to get up to where he’s at,” Fedde added. “Just decided to push myself to get there.”
Fedde said Harper was “always a monster” in sports they played together growing up. “Coming into high school, he (didn’t) look like a freshman,” Fedde said.
After Fedde took photos with Harper and Williams in the press conference room, Harper hugged Fedde’s parents. “Thanks Bryce!” Fedde’s mother said as Harper left the room to return to the clubhouse. For a few minutes, the two friends could connect again. But soon, Fedde’s near-year-long road back to a mound would begin.