Why it mattered
Stephen Strasburg, known as “The Phenom” back then, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft by the Washington Nationals and signed for a record-breaking $5.1 million in mid-August, delaying his Minor League debut until 2010. The Nationals sent Strasburg to Double-A Harrisburg to start that season with the Senators opening the season at Blair County Ballpark.
His debut was headline news, not only in Altoona but nationwide. ESPNEWS aired Strasburg’s half innings live, the first nationally broadcasted sporting event from Altoona since ESPN2 aired the 1995 WBCA High School All-America Game from the Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse. Over 70 media members were on hand and packed the stadium’s media room for Strasburg’s postgame press conference.
Fans from nearby and hours away filled up the ballpark to a standing-room-only crowd of 7,887 fans, the largest April crowd in Curve history.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame was even on hand to authenticate and collect Strasburg’s first pitch and the Senators lineup card to take to Cooperstown.
As far as his performance goes, he was upper-90s and even hit 100 mph. He whiffed eight hitters but the Curve knocked him around a little bit. Harrisburg rallied and claimed the lead in the top of the sixth inning before Strasburg was officially removed from the game, which set him up as the game’s winning pitcher.
For Curve, Rudy Owens made his Double-A debut in Strasburg’s shadows. Owens was coming off Pirates Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors and would go on to have a stellar season with the eventual-Eastern League champs.
As we look back on this day a decade later, I’d say Strasburg lived up to the hype. He was in the big leagues just two months after this performance in Altoona. Ironically, he faced the Pittsburgh Pirates in his MLB debut. What else? A three-time National League All-Star, 2014 NL strikeout champ, 2019 World Series champion and MVP. He parlayed all of that into a seven-year, $245 million contract to resign with the Nationals, which was the largest deal for a pitcher in MLB history in terms of total money and average annual value before Gerrit Cole signed with the Yankees a few days later for nine years, $324 million.
4:28 – Strasburg takes the mound
8:37 – Alex Pressley doubles off Strasburg
9:44 – Miles Durham RBI single (Curve 1, Harrisburg 0)
15:32 – Strasburg whiffs Josh Harrison on 99 mph fastball for first pro strikeout
47:11 – Jose De Los Santos singles in one, Harrison speeds in for another on an error (Curve 3, Harrisburg 0)
50:15 – Rudy Owens helps his own cause with an RBI single off Strasburg (Curve 4, Harrisburg 0)
1:00:55 – Jhonatan Solano singles home Harrisburg’s first run (Curve 4, Harrisburg 1)
1:03:00 – Strasburg drives a double over right fielder’s head, plates a run (Curve 4, Harrisburg 2)
1:04:40 – Michael Martinez singles home Strasburg (Curve 4, Harrisburg 3)
1:07:52 – Strasburg freezes Gorkys Hernandez with breaking ball for eighth strikeouts
1:17:53 – Bill Rhinehart puts Senators on top with two-run double, putting Strasburg in line for winning decision (Harrisburg 5, Curve 4)
1:50:00 – Miles Durham swipes second base on Drew Storen’s first pitch, moving the tying run into scoring position
1:51:45 – Storen escapes eighth inning with no runs allowed
1:56:33 – Martinez delivers RBI groundout to increase Harrisburg’s lead to two (Harrisburg 6, Curve 4)
2:02:33 – Storen locks up Chase d’Arnaud on a breaking ball to end the game
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