Ten years later, Stephen Strasburg's debut is still legendary

Nick Ashooh
NBC Sports Washington

If you go back through the history of sports, it's all too common to find an athlete drenched in hype before they even make their professional debut, only to never actually live up to those expectations. Fair or not, fans, organizations, the media, all put tons of pressure on kids and young adults, that can be nearly impossible to match.

Then there are other rare moments, when an athlete not only lives up to that hype, but instead fans the flames to uncontrollable levels right from the start. Go around the sports world, and you'll find names like LeBron James, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Tiger Woods, Bryce Harper, and even Stephen Strasburg. All of these names were known when they were teenagers, and all came in with astronomical expectations they lived up to very early on. 

June 8, 2020, marks the 10-year anniversary of one of the most electrifying beginnings to a career in sports history. Ironically, Strasburg's debut in 2010 came almost one year to the day he was drafted (June 9, 2009). 

Sports Illustrated called the lead up to Strasburg's first start with the Nationals "the most hyped pitching debut the game has ever seen", and for a young sports fan like myself, it's still seared into my memory. 

Seven innings, just two earned, no walks all while setting a new team strikeout record with 14. That night, Strasburg was also the first pitcher in history to strike out at least eleven batters without issuing any walks in his pro debut, while falling just one strikeout short of the all-time record for a pitcher's debut.

The energy went from having a dream about something you were excited to do the next day, to not only living that excitement, but it reaching a Popeyes chicken sandwich level frenzy. It was nuts. I had been lucky enough to get tickets as a fan, having just gotten into the sports media world for a career and not wanting to do the whole "no cheering in the press box thing", and finding myself far up in the nose bleeds with a couple of friends. 

The seats didn't matter. Just being there was historic. 

You could feel the energy in a standing room only Nats Park, and see the entire baseball world there to cover it. MLB Network had the game, even the legendary Bob Costas was there to call it. 

Strasburg kept getting stronger as the innings went on, and the ballpark was engulfed in hysteria when he struck out the side on 13 pitches in his final inning. He took down the last seven Pirates batters he faced, and all nine in the starting lineup struck out at least once.

They looked like little leaguers at the plate. 

I can remember thinking to myself that he just couldn't get better, and each inning, he did. 

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"I've been catching a lot of guys," said his former catcher Ivan Rodriguez after the game, "but this kid is unbelievable."

Unbelievable really wasn't even the best word to describe that night, but most of us were at a loss for words anyway (except for people that had to write about it because, you know, that's their job).

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To add to all this delirium, his second and third major league starts brought another eight and ten strikeouts, respectively, setting an MLB record for the most strikeouts in a pitcher's first three starts with 32.

Sure, before becoming a World Series MVP there were some ups and downs, though little will doubt Strasburg's talent today. The Shutdown of 2012 is still always a "What-if" that Nationals fans will consider, and at times some even questioned his toughness. 

Today though, looking back on what Strasburg has accomplished, from his debut all the way to winning a World Series, he's one of the few that took that hype involuntarily pressed on his shoulders, and turned it into a lasting legacy that the nation's capital and baseball world will never forget. 

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Ten years later, Stephen Strasburg's debut is still legendary originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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