In 2010, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mike Leake recalled his experience playing on an 11-year-old travel team with fellow San Diegan Stephen Strasburg, whom he will face on Monday night for the first time at Nationals Park.
“He was overweight, pouty and used to cry,” Leake, then a rookie, told USA Today of Strasburg. “He did a complete 180. It’s amazing how he changed.”
A Yahoo Sports article from the same year detailed the time Strasburg’s emotions got the best of him at a national youth tournament in Shawnee, Kan. With Leake serving as his catcher, Strasburg melted down during a tough inning and his parents and coaches agreed to send him home to San Diego.
“It would have been pretty cool to face him,” Leake told USA Today after he and Strasburg, both top 10 draft picks in the 2009 draft, missed pitching against each other by a couple of days in 2010. “It would be a nice little competition. That’s all right. I’m sure we’ll eventually meet up.”
When they finally do on Monday night after missing each other by one day last April, Strasburg could be pitching with some extra motivation.
Back in San Diego, Erik Castro, Strasburg’s catcher at SDSU and the best man at his wedding, read the [USA Today] story and — knowing how it would make Strasburg burn — immediately called him to see if he had seen it. Strasburg had seen it, all right. And he was steaming.
Leake was officially on The List.
“It really fired him up,” Castro said. “I was the first person to talk to him about it. He got so fired up. He wants to pitch against [Leake]. He said some other things that aren’t appropriate to put in a newspaper. But he definitely wants a piece of that kid.”
Do people ever get taken off of Strasburg’s List, or is part of him still steaming four years later? Either way, it’s probably worth watching on Monday night.
Strasburg is at the top left in the photo below. Leake is the third kid from the right in the back row.
— Bud McDonald (@primetimereds) May 18, 2014