The article incorrectly said that Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg would not be available to play this season because he was on the team's 40-man roster but not on its 25-man major league roster. From Sept. 1 through the end of the season, the entire 40-man roster is eligible to play for the major league club.
Stephen Strasburg Makes His Debut With the Washington Nationals
Monday, August 31, 2009
VIERA, Fla., Aug. 30 -- Twelve days, 9 hours and 40 minutes after Stephen Strasburg agreed to his record $15.1 million contract, he squinted into the searing Florida sun, cranked his arm back slightly and tossed his first ball as a member of the Washington Nationals organization.
He was standing in the thick grass at the team's spring training complex, wearing the same gray shirt and navy shorts as about three dozen members of the Nationals' rookie ball team, who were preparing for that afternoon's Gulf Coast League game. The historic throw sailed approximately 15 feet and dropped into the waiting glove of Gulf Coast Nationals pitching coach Mark Grater at -- let the record show -- approximately 9:42 a.m. Sunday.
Photographers scrambled, cameras clicked, fans hovered, and pens moved, recording the moment.
"I thought I'd get a little bit of peace out here on the field, but you guys are following me everywhere," Strasburg said later. "It's something I guess I gotta deal with. I guess it just goes with the territory."
It goes with the territory, at least, for first overall draft picks who collect record signing money and fire pitches at more than 100 mph. Strasburg, 21, did not attempt to hide his displeasure at the scrutiny he received Sunday on his first day of work in this sweltering town nearly three hours north of Miami.
Despite not throwing an actual pitch or stepping on the mound other than to execute defensive drills with Nationals minor league pitching coordinator Spin Williams, Strasburg was tailed by a small group of journalists, photographers and sweat-soaked autograph-seekers.
"Once I get into playing games and stuff, it should be able to die down," Strasburg said. "Hopefully it will die down sometime soon. . . . I'm just a baseball player. It's not like I'm the president or anything."
Strasburg greeted reporters after his easy, 45-minute workout with his head down and eyes nearly hidden by the bill of his now sweaty new cap. Ushered into the lobby of the Nationals' training facility, Strasburg slid grimly into a vinyl chair and leaned his elbows on his knees. He massaged his fingers as he answered questions.
In the last year, "a lot of crazy things got thrown my way," Strasburg said. "A lot of times, I wasn't given a chance to be a normal college kid, or a normal baseball player, for that matter."
That's not likely to change anytime soon. Strasburg, the only collegian to play on last year's U.S. Olympic baseball team, will remain here until Thursday, training alongside the Gulf Coast team and doing long-toss -- but no pitching -- before departing for Washington, Williams said.
He will spend just more than a week with the big league team, working out and possibly watching games from the dugout. (He is on the team's 40-man roster, but not the major league 25-man roster, so he won't be available to play.)
After the major league stint, he will go back to the Florida Instructional League, where he will finally step onto a mound for the first time since he last pitched for San Diego State May 29.