December 14, 2019

Washington Is a Baseball Town (Again)

June 8, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

At the top of the seventh inning the crowd began the chant, “Let’s Go Stras-burg” to the same cadence that fans in DC have grown tired of listening to from Philly, Dodger, Red Sox and just about anywhere fans.  But this chant was all DC and it grew and built.  “Let’s Go Stras-burg” the entire stadium seemed to be singing and Strasburg was into the crowd and the situation.  First he struck out Garrett Jones, then Delwyn Young and with pandemonium growing on every pitch, the heart of a great athlete shined through.  He hit 100 mph in striking out Young and it was clear he wanted every one of those strikeouts even more than the fans did.  He got Adam LaRoche swinging at high heat to finish off one of the great baseball debuts in recent history.

Ahead 4 – 2 in the bottom of the seventh inning thanks to back-to-back homers by Dunn and Willingham, Strasburg had a chance to go out a winner on his first major league start.  He seized the opportunity and shook it for all it was worth.  He was still hitting 99 mph throughout that bottom of the seventh.  He had lost nothing after 90 pitches.  When he was done and walked into the dugout, he got one of the biggest standing ovations Washington has ever given an athlete and no one could have deserved it more.  For all the hype, he proved he is the real deal all the way from head to toe.

He had a rough spell in the fourth inning.  In the bottom of the third inning, Strasburg failed to run out a grounder deep into the shortstop hole.  He was out and it wasn’t even close when he should have had an infield single.  When he came out to the mound for the next half inning, he was not sharp.  Even the fastball had less snap.  Two singles started the inning and after a double play Delwyn Young hit a two-run homer that gave Pittsburgh the lead 2 – 1.  Suddenly the fans were back in the old hole that they have known so often before.

Young’s homer seemed like a wake up call and suddenly Strasburg’s fastball seemed to regain the snap as he got a weak grounder to end the inning.  Then he was back in total command in the fifth inning, fanning two of the three batters he faced, then in the sixth and seventh innings he struck out the side.  An amazing performance.

A standing room only crowd was in attendance and there were no out-of-towners.  The stands were all Washington Nationals all night long.  There was an eclectic aggregation of baseball personages–everyone from Bob Costas to Ken Burns were in Washington, DC tonight for the game.  George Will was behind me in the traffic jam standing impatiently on his running board trying to figure out what the hold up was, hoping to high heaven that we would not miss the historic first pitch.

But it was not about the people who came into town for the special event and will be gone tomorrow.  It was about the every day fans who came from all over the three state region to fill the stadium.  They were what made the game special.  I watched Strasburg warm up with former Lynchburg College pitcher Brett Colley and a guy from Richmond who had driven two hours to see the first pitch.  They are Nationals fans and after tonight they will always be Nationals fans.

It was Colley who pointed out that the sea of red we saw pouring into the stadium were all Nationals fans–a truly Washington sell out for the first time ever.  Stephen Strasburg is about the future of Washington baseball.  And there was Bryce Harper being interviewed during the pre-game festivities.  The night was so much about a future for baseball in DC.  But this one night belonged to one phenom, Stephen Strasburg.

It is easy to be caught up in the win that Matt Capps closed out in the ninth for Strasburg.  There will be many more like this one, but there will also be more innings like the fourth when he cannot find his rhythm.  There will be bumps in the road for the 21-year-old young man.  But on this most special of nights it was all about the long promising road ahead, and an entire city fell in love with what they see down that road tonight.  Fourteen strikeouts will smooth out a few rough spots in a big hurry.

So Let’s Go Stras-burg.  Let’s Go Stras-burg all the way to the top.

Comments

2 Responses to “Washington Is a Baseball Town (Again)”
  1. Mark Ahrens says:

    Great article Ted! As a long-suffering Nationals (and Senators) fan, I think you caught the moment correctly. The blip in the 4th inning started a familiar gut pain but quickly went away with the Dunn home run.

    I live out of town so coundn’t make the game. In my hometown in CT, I have been consistently wearing Nats’ gear proudly every day, without most notice I would imagine. On Wednesday, however, I stood a bit taller, a bit prouder than before.

    I watched every pitch on TV with an excitement that I can’t remember having in quite some time.

    When Strasburg fanned his last batter, his 14th, on the 99 mph 4-seam fastball…I jumped from my chair with a umpire’s “Yer Out” call. I am sure I looked ridiculous, but boy did I feel good!

    Thanks again,

    Mark Ahrens

  2. Ted Leavengood says:

    My thanks to you. What a fantastic night and we can only hope many more to come. I hope to write in the coming weeks on the amazing number of new fans won over by Strasburg to the Nationals.

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