Single-A hitters swung early, often against Strasburg

August 28, 2011
  • Bob Parasiliti
Bob Parasiliti

In a different time and place, Stephen Strasburg could have been Wyatt Earp.

Both men have kept order with gunslinger reputations.

Earp was a lawman. Strasburg is the marquee pitcher for the Washington Nationals who’s in rehabilitation after elbow ligament replacement surgery.

That has allowed both men to be pinned with stars.

Recently, the new sheriff came to Hagerstown. Strasburg had three rehab starts with the Suns looking for the first stagecoach to the majors.

But instead of finding peaceful, (baseball) law-abiding citizens, Strasburg found out the South Atlantic League is like the Wild West. Single-A players don’t follow rules or etiquette. They embraced lawlessness when it came to facing the big league pitcher.

“I’ve never pitched at this level before. It’s kind of new. I’m still trying to figure out how guys are going to approach me,” Strasburg said after last Monday’s final outing with the Suns. “It’s different when guys are trying to ambush you on every pitch that comes close.”

Po-tate-o, po-tot-o. To-mate-o, To-mott-o. One guy’s approach is another guy’s ambush.

No disrespect to Strasburg. He is a dazzling pitcher, even when he isn’t 100 percent healthy. Yet, he admitted the problem: He never pitched at this level before.

When Strasburg became 2009’s first overall draft selection, his ticket was punched. He was a college guy with more polish — and a heavier wallet — than most draftees.  

His expressway to the majors bypassed Single A and started at Double-A Harrisburg, allowing him to miss the “charm” of life in baseball’s bushes.

Strasburg’s injury forced him to take a few steps back to get a running start toward the majors again. And in the process, he remembered where he started but forgot where he came from.

It would be hard to imagine Strasburg’s college opponents taking very many pitches, especially while holding aluminum bats.

At Harrisburg and above, players are more cultured to professional baseball ways. They are finicky and wait for just the right pitch to hit.

Single A is baseball’s version of Where’s Waldo? Young players, many just out of high school, are part of a gifted sea of humanity hoping to be discovered.

For the players on Greensboro, Lexington and Hickory, their opportunity came during Strasburg’s visits. They got the chance to face one of baseball’s best in front of a big crowd of fans and media.

They came up swinging. They weren’t looking for a specific pitch to hit — any would do as they kept swinging until they were told to sit down, which quickly elevated Strasburg’s pitch count.

With less than 10 percent of minor leaguers reaching the majors, Strasburg won’t see most of these players again. So, a hit in this one at-bat makes parents proud and is a Thanksgiving dinner story for years to come.

Strasburg’s Hagerstown situation is no different than the one experienced by Bryce Harper, who was in the same boat when he faced South Atlantic League pitchers.

One of the basic beliefs in athletics is a player is only in charge of doing his best. Everything — and everyone — else is out of his control.  

Wyatt Earp found out people don’t always do what’s expected at the OK Corral.

It’s something Strasburg needs to remember. After all, that’s how the West — or in his case, the NL East — is won.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at

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