For one day at least, all the Major League world was Stephen Strasburg's stage, and the rest of baseball his audience.Understandably, they gave him a standing ovation when the right-hander's command performance -- seven scintillating innings, 14 strikeouts, no walks, a victory -- was over. The two most often heard words? "Impressive." And "Hooray!" As in, bully for baseball.
"It's good for baseball to have a young and exciting player come into the game," said Nolan Ryan, the once-and-always "Express" and now club president of the Rangers, "to have so much fanfare and to sell the stadium out in anticipation. But there's a lot of pressure on him. He's obviously had this recognition for over a year and this will take it to a level it's never been at before. It just comes down to his makeup and how he handles the situation. It's obviously a challenge."Challenge not only met, but routed. "It's good for baseball," said Oakland manager Bob Geren. "I've never seen a guy make his debut with this kind of hype. It's a real uplifting day for the game of baseball." About the only one left speechless was Roget, who might have to come up with some new adjectives for his thesaurus to do the kid justice. The most grudging compliment came from Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington, who couldn't deny the excellence he was seeing even though it came against his own Pirates. "That," said Huntington, "was impressive. I wish it had been against any other team, so I could have enjoyed it." "Maybe more than being impressed, I'm happy for the kid," said Minnesota right-hander Kevin Slowey, offering one of the first toasts from a peer. "He's had a lot of pressure on him since he's been drafted and maybe some was rightfully so, but still, that's a lot of pressure to put on one guy. "And that still only counted as one game and I think he obviously carried himself very well and was able to pitch very well. I don't think I've ever been under that sort of scrutiny. It's neat to see him throw that well and hopefully we'll get a chance to watch him sometime in the future." Milwaukee Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio was privy to the palpable anticipation leading up to the debut, having passed through the nation's capital Tuesday morning. He only wished he could have stuck around for the main attraction. "I was in Washington D.C. this morning to make a presentation," Attanasio said, "and the atmosphere in that city is unbelievable. Everybody is walking around in Nationals caps and, honestly, if not for me wanting to be here to watch our team [against the Cubs in Miller Park], I would have stayed and watched it myself." "It's pretty impressive," added the Twins' Jason Kubel. "I'm glad we don't have to worry about that till whenever we're scheduled against them next. It was pretty crazy with all this stuff going on about it, but it was actually pretty cool to see him go out and show you what all the hype was about."
Another highly hyped player, Marlins slugging outfielder Mike Stanton, also made his big league debut on Tuesday, although his first foray into The Show wasn't nearly as publicized. Stanton delivered as well, singling in his first at-bat and going 3-for-5 with two runs scored.
But he was talking about Strasburg, too. How could he not be?
"There is more video and stuff on his debut," Stanton said. "It doesn't matter. We're both going to go out and try to do our best. I'm sure he's going to be asked a lot of questions and have as many cameras in his face. He's going to go out and battle as much as me."In St. Petersburg, it was easy for Rays manager Joe Maddon to single out what most impressed him about Strasburg's 94-pitch debut. "Everybody's going to talk about the  strikeouts," Maddon said, "but how about zero walks?" Maddon made his comment after having watched his own pitcher, Jeff Niemann, dominate Toronto with a two-hit shutout. But any attempts to upstage Strasburg on his night seemed pretty vain. "I was trying to. That was the goal -- take a little shine away," Niemann insisted. "That's the league. Everyone's trying to do that. There's been some buzz going around all day. I heard he was pretty impressive." In Cleveland, the electricity from Nationals Park crackled all the way into the Red Sox's visiting dugout. "I heard," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "Guys were kind of coming down [from the clubhouse]. There was a little bit of buzz in the dugout. I'll look forward to watching the highlights. I heard it was pretty neat. It's good for baseball. It sounded like their ballpark was sold out and I know there's been a buzz all week. That's good for baseball, especially because we don't have to face him." The Braves' Chipper Jones paused in front of the clubhouse television to take in Strasburg's first three innings before venturing out for batting practice in Arizona. If he remains in the rotation, Strasburg would make a start during the Nationals' June 28-30 series at Turner Field.
"You don't see guys who have that kind of stuff every day," Jones said. "The only guy I'd liken him to is [Justin] Verlander."
Back in Washington, the Nationals were understandably blown away, with manager Jim Riggleman speechless and president Stan Kasten sparkling.
"I really can't put into words any better than what you saw," Riggleman said. "It was very exciting with everything that was on him the last several days -- for the way it was built up. For him to respond that way was a great night for baseball in Washington. That one is behind him and, hopefully, we could just get him on the routine and let him do his thing."
"Everything was right," added Kasten. "He gave us a great game everyone will remember for a long time. It has been an emotional couple of days. Last year's Draft was good for us. [General manager] Mike [Rizzo] and I are so determined to build a team through player development and scouting. Good things happen."
And those good things were visible on TVs throughout the league.
Yankees starter Phil Hughes, who beat the Orioles on Tuesday night some 40 miles away at Camden Yards, saw Strasburg's highlights after leaving the game.
"He looks pretty good," Hughes said. "[Curt] Schilling said he'd be the best pitcher when he put a Major League uniform on, so it looks like he could be. That's pretty good stuff."
Back in Arizona, Braves manager Bobby Cox, who's seen a lot in his many years in the game and saw one more Tuesday in his final season, took his eyes off the TV and summed up the remarkable night with typical old-timers' restraint:"Whoa," he said, "that kid is pretty impressive."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.