One advantage of having the organization with the worst winning percentage in your backyard is you get to see top prospects, thanks to the team drafting first.
And so it was that Stephen Strasburg came to the Space Coast on Monday to make his professional pitching debut in the fall instructional league for the Nationals against the Tigers.
This was probably the most highly attended game in instructional league history. One paper guessed it was fifty patrons, but the truth is so many Nationals staff, media, fans, and rubber-neckers were about you really couldn’t tell who was a “fan” and who wasn’t. There was no admission fee, no tickets required, so anyone could walk in.
ESPN covered the event live, with a stationary camera high in the press box shooting through the net. Boring.
I was behind home plate with my camcorder, shooting through the net, for my other site SpaceCoastBaseball.com. Unlike ESPN or other media in attendance, I went down to the bullpen to film Strasburg’s warmup and got the only footage that showed you the batter’s perspective.
Click Here to watch the Strasburg video. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.
It’s amazing what one hot prospect can do for a web site’s hit count. The number of unique visitors increased ten-fold yesterday over the number of usual SpaceCoastBaseball.com visitors. The site is new, so not many people know about it, but events like this help spread the word.
There’s also a sense of deja vu covering the Nationals. It reminds me of what the Angels went through in the late 1990s, when Baseball America ranked us the worst organization in baseball. After the Gulf Coast League (Rookie-A) Nationals won the pennant on September 3, I told local staff that I knew what it felt like to have everyone treat you like you were inept. Better times are ahead, and the pennant is a sign of that. In fact, a big championship pennant now flies alongside Stadium Parkway outside the minor league complex office.
Strasburg’s debut was a lot of hype, of course, for a meaningless instructional league game. But it gave the Nats’ staff another little ray of hope for the future.