Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Quest for Strasburg



My quest for Strasburg weekend started in a bar across from Progessive Field in downtown Cleveland called Local Heroes. While waiting for the folks at Progressive Field to open the gates for Saturday’s Strastionals/Indians game, I threw back a few libations, and pretended to be interested in the World Cup.

Surrounded by TVs that were all tuned to the US/England soccer game, and a wall full of Lebron jerseys- from his high school digs to his current team’s, I stuck out like a sore douche, sporting my Strasburg jersey and a backpack full of memorabilia to hopefully get signed.

To be honest, I didn’t get any bad looks, nor any snide remarks from any of the patrons. In fact, I had to answer one of them, in what could been taken as a smart ass tone, when he commented, “Wow. They already have his jersey out, huh?”

“Yeah, buddy. In fact, do you see that vendor across the street?”

I was feeling less douchey during my walk to the ballpark, as I saw more #37 jerseys than I would’ve expected. I was in the stadium by about 5 for a 7:05 start. The lower level was not opened to the masses until 6, so the majority of folks hung out in right field, where the man of the hour was warming up with his fellow pitchers. I ran into some folks from Kensington, Upper Marlboro, a retired state trooper from Fairfax County; even the kids, who I know had to be locals, were sporting the #37 jersey. Everyone was there to see Strasburg.

I made my way up to the concourse at about 10 til 6, to prepare for the rush down to the field. Our seats were on the first base side, just past the Strastionals dugout, so I would be in close proximity to where I was sitting, and would have no problem hooking up with my wife who would be arriving later.

I’m not sure what time it was, but lets say 6:20 or so, and the man started making his way from shagging fly balls, over towards the hoards of fans who were lining the right field line. I was ready. In fact, I had my trusted sharpie, an official MLB ball, and the WaPo sports page from June 9th- the day after his 14k debut.

The rush forward as Strasburg approached the masses, was like a Who concert, circa late seventies. “Stephen, Stephen!” was the cry. Was I a 12 year old girl at a Jonas Brothers concert, or a 30 something, semi-employed, sports blogging asshole, whose wife was now looking on at my attempt to garner an autograph, as she most likely was wondering if she actually might be married to a closet homosexual?

The phenom was surrounded by a couple of Cleveland’s finest, and who I presume, were Strastionals security or PR guys. As Strasburg made his way down the line, I could see him getting anxious, as he signed and looked up at the amount of people demanding his attention. There came a point when he definitely looked my way, as I prominently displayed the “Strasburg Delivers” WaPo headline, and I do believe it was then, that he made a point to accommodate my “request”.

In the blink of an eye, Strasburg grabbed my sharpie, took the paper out of my hands, and signed his name just above the picture of him delivering the pitch against the Pirates. He handed me the pen and paper back, and then announced to all who were gathered, “that’s it guys. I have to go.”

I had been his last signature, prior to Saturday night’s game. And my quest for Strasburg was complete.

The game that evening didn’t go so splendidly. The 7-1 onslaught began like it had the previous evening, with second baseman Adam Kennedy representing the league's worst defense, as he threw a ball into left field that eventually led to a run. But no worries. The “mission” had been complete, as far as I was concerned, and besides, we were returning the following day to see Strasburg pitch.

The kid did not disappoint the following day. 8ks, 1 earned run and only 2 hits allowed thru 5 and 1/3. The Nats won in a rout, and Strasburg went on to win NL player of the week honors. Next tour stop, this Friday night at home against the ChiSox. Rock on, kid.


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