Well, we are about six hours away from the first pitch at what ordinarily would be a meaningless, poorly attended game between the Nats and the Pirates at Nationals Park. With game 3 of the NBA finals and game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals also on TV tonight, local area fans will likely be tuned into the debut of pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg (the O's play the Yankees tonight too, but that will most definitely be relegated to MASN 2).
Having attended the Nats-Reds game on Friday, it is evident that fans are ready for Strasburg's arrival, roughly one year from the day he was drafted with the first overall pick in the amateur draft. The right-hander has dazzled in his minor league appearances so far this year, and hopes to live up to expectations as the new face of the franchise. Having watched baseball all my life, I can't remember a time when a player's debut has generated this much buzz. Baseball tonight is broadcasting live from Nats park beginning at 3:30 p.m. today, the game is sold out, and there is almost a world series-like feeling in the air. Let's just hope Strasburg's nerves are solid and he doesn't get shelled by the Pirates bats in his first couple innings of big league ball.
Much media attention has been given to the changing face of the NL East, and how it may very well emerge as baseball's best division in the coming years due to the plethora of young talent (Ike Davis with the Mets, Jason Heyward of the Braves, and recently called up Mike Stanton of the Marlins). Couple that with the man who is being called a 'pitching prodigy' and we may see a lot of exciting parity in the NL East for years to come.
The past 36 hours have been referred to as the most important timeframe in the Nats short-lived history. In addition to Strasburg's debut tonight, the Nats spent their second number one overall pick in a row (thats what happens when you post th MLB-worst record two consecutive seasons) on Bryce Harper of Southern Nevada, a player who is being called baseball's Lebron. Harper, who obtained his GED and skipped out on his last two years of high school to play junior college ball, is a menace at the plate. The Nats have made very clear that they will convert the current catcher into an outfielder, hoping to focus on plate discipline as opposed to learning the difficult and demanding position of catcher at a big league-caliber level. It remains to be seen whether Harper, who is Scott Boras advisee, will sign with the Nats, but hopefully we will see him on the same field as Strasburg in a few years time. At 17, he will likely command a higher price tag then Strasburg, but all signs seem to indicate he is worth the extra coin.