When I was growing up in the Woodley Park neighborhood of Northwest Washington in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the closest places to test my baseball skills were the scruffy fields at Oyster Elementary and the Maret School, both of which I attended for four years.
But not too far away was the lush, manicured greensward at the St. Albans School, a spot where every so often I would sneak onto the field. It was a heck of a lot easier to imagine my major league dreams there than at my own schools.
Other than serving as a batboy during the 1969 Congressional baseball game and attending the Washington Senators’ Picture Day in 1971, the closest I’ve come to a big league field has been as a reporter.
But Danny Hultzen, who was pitching on that same field just three years ago, took a big step towards realizing his dreams on Monday when he was selected second overall in the Major League draft by the Seattle Mariners as he tries to hurl Virginia to an NCAA title to match the one the Cavaliers just won in men’s lacrosse.
The 21-year-old Bethesda native has yet to stray far from his roots unlike St. Albans’ most famous athlete, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, who went to UCLA before winding up close to home with the Baltimore Ravens.
Hultzen and the Cavaliers face Cal-Irvine in a best-of-three series this weekend with the winner advancing to the College World Series.
And then the 6-foot-3 lefthander with an improving fastball and a variety of off-speed pitches will begin his next journey: not matching such St. Albans grads-turned politicians such as Al Gore, Evan Bayh, Henry Cabot Lodge and Jesse Jackson, Jr. but trying to join the Washington area’s pantheon of athletic superstars.
That group includes basketball legends Elgin Baylor, Dave Bing, Austin Carr and Adrian Dantley, football Hall of Famer Willie Wood and All-Pro Brian Holloway, former stolen base champion Maury Wills, track standouts Alan Webb and Allen Johnson, swimmers Mike Barrowman and Melissa Belote, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and gymnast Domonique Dawes – all Olympic champions — golfer Deane Beman and tennis stars Donald Dell and Harold Solomon.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.