In a scene befitting a coronation, with the third base stands (semi-) filled with fans and media alike, the Washington Nationals introduced first overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg, signed Monday night for $15.1 million, a record contract for a player from the entry draft.
Wearing a dark blue "Curly W" golf shirt, Strasburg waived politely when introduced by emcee Bob Carpenter, from MASN, the Nationals broadcast partner.
Team president Stan Kasten first made a few general remarks praising the Lerner family and their dedication to building the franchise.
Newly appointed general manager Mike Rizzo, touting "better days ahead," gave a brief comment about how they expect Strasburg to be part of an exciting future, noting he just has to do his part and that the organization does not expect him to be the "savior" of the franchise.
After a short video display of his college highlihgts, and burst of fireworks, Carpenter then asked Strasburg, considering all the fanfare for signing the contract, what the reaction might be after his first shut out. He replied, "Maybe a flyover from Air Force One?"
Ryan Zimmerman then took the stage and presented Strasburg with a crisp, home-white No. 37 jersey. Third base coach Pat Listach, who currently wears the number, was not available for comment.
Zimmerman then told Strasburg not "to worry about everything here [motioning to the collected media and fans]," but to go out and have fun and continue to be the player he was in college. Zimmerman then, at Carpenter's prompting, teased the former San Diego State hurler about his loss to Zim's alma mater, Virginia, in the NCAA playoffs.
What followed was a standard press conference, with questions from the media.
From my impression, Strasburg appeared relaxed, confident -- but not cocky, and eager to get to work. The gathered fans cheered loudly after almost every answer he gave, and they even found it in them to cheer Scott Boras, after the player's agent described Strasburg's work ethic.
Highlights of the presser after the jump...
Some highlights (mostly paraphrasing):
What did you do physically since May? "Took the summer off...played golf...was a college kid until today."
His part in the "feel good" of this week? Starting to get a taste of what his signing means to the fans of DC. "Hoping to come in here and help this team win ballgames."
On the organization's plan for his development: Rizzo: "We'll be cautious with his development." We'll have to assess where his is now; he'll go to the Nats Florida instructional league, then ramp him up to get him to throw on a competitive basis. If they can get him up to speed physically, he'll pitch in the Florida instructional league then in the Arizona Fall League with an eye toward spring training.
On his goals for reaching the major leagues: "It's up to the organization." He just wants to continue what he did in college, being competitive, helping his team win.
How tough will the wait for making the majors be? Tough, because he knows the fans are anxious. But he also realizes that there is an adjustment from pitching once a week to every five days, and he'll do what the organization thinks is best.
Does he feel any pressure to be the "face of franchise"? He got good advice from his college coach, Tony Gwynn "The game is the same. All of this [media, fans] is a little different, but I have to do my thing and try to be successful."
What has been going through his mind since the signing? "I'm a practical guy, so I've been focused on what I need to take to Florida with me."
Did he ever doubt that he would sign? He was always hopeful that it would happen and thankful that it worked out.
On Gwynn's influence: He stated that he wanted to go nine innings every Friday to help San Diego State win games and get to the college World Series. Gwynn told him to "trust his teammates" and kept him on a fairly stringent pitch count.
Scott Boras, Strasburg's agent, was asked about his "makeup": Stephen has already seen failure, already understands how to work for something and strive for something. His achievements were earned, and is a foundation for his ascent into Major League Baseball.
To Kasten, on maintaining the momentum from the Strasburg signing and Rizzo promotion of the last week: "We always thought this would happen." "There have been bumps and bruises" this season, but "a lot of good things [are] happening here." He said the plan has always been "all premised on young starting pitching" and that the Nationals are "very near turning around of this franchise."
How soon can you make the big leagues: "I have experience pitching in the Olympics with guys in the majors now. " But he trusts the judgment of the organization and when "I'm ready, I'll be here."
To Rizzo, on obstacles Strasburg faces: It's "more of a training ground". He needs to adjust to the "everyday-ness of the professional game." "This is a seven-day-a-week job."