Strasburg pick has Nats fans abuzz
Nationals Park holds pregame Draft party for celebrated righty
WASHINGTON -- The tarp was on the field at Nationals Park early Tuesday evening, and the fans found their way back to the concourse to avoid the steady rain. Instead of watching their Nationals and the Reds in the opener of a three-game series, Washington fans kept looking at the sky and wondering when the rain would stop.
But fans did get to have some fun when the 2009 First-Year Player Draft was put up on the big video board in right-center field. The cheers came from several places at 6:15 p.m. ET, when Commissioner Bud Selig announced that the Nationals had chosen San Diego State right-hander Stephen Strasburg with the first overall pick in the Draft.
Strasburg was easily the most talked-about prospect of this year's Draft. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander had a 13-1 record with a sparkling 1.32 ERA in 15 starts this season, and there's been a buzz about him in Washington throughout the spring.
"We thought he was the best player," said acting general manager Mike Rizzo. "We're going to begin the process of [signing him]. He was elated to be drafted by the Washington Nationals, fired up to be the No. 1 pick."
Several fans were fired up that the Nats made the pick, as some wondered if the team might pass on him or do something else.
Northern Virginia resident James Parmelee stood watching the rain come down on the field, but he said he thought the Nats made the right move. He wore his white "Draft 2009, I Was There" T-shirt that fans received, and smiled when talking about the pick.
"I hope he does as well as advertised," Parmelee said. "I'm looking forward to seeing him pitch, and I'm hopeful."
Rinz Steward is a Washington resident who works at a picture station near Section 113, behind third base. He said fans that he dealt with were talking about it, and Steward also said that the team made the correct move, citing the importance of having a big-time pitcher.
"That's a great choice," said Steward. "I think he'll help the ballclub. That's pretty much what we're missing. I think it will pretty much turn the ballclub around."
That's what the Nationals are hoping for with this move. They kept a close eye on him this season as Rizzo said every time Strasburg took the mound, someone from Washington was watching -- and they liked what they saw.
Rizzo also brushed off talk from people that the Nats might bring Strasburg to the Major Leagues right away.
"It's a process that you can't rush," he said. "Some players advance quicker than others. But there's always a learning curve."
Rizzo also was happy with the team's other first-round pick, Stanford right-hander Drew Storen. Washington took him with the 10th overall selection about 45 minutes after Strasburg, and Rizzo said he'll likely stick to the late-inning work he did with Stanford.
Storen posted a 12-4 record with 15 saves and a 3.64 ERA in 59 appearances during his two years with Stanford. He went 7-1 with seven saves and a 3.80 ERA in 28 games this season.
But in the end, most of the talk was about Strasburg. The pictures of him were up on video boards all over the stadium during the nearly two-hour rain delay, and he was the subject of many conversations on this night -- even after the tarp came off and the game began.
There's no question that the Nats are expecting big things from Strasburg. In fact, Rizzo didn't even hesitate when asked if Strasburg was the best prospect he'd ever seen.
"He's certainly in the team photo," Rizzo said.
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.