On the schedule, it’s just another Tuesday night baseball game between a pair of sub-.500 teams. Whether the host Washington Nationals or the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers win game two of their series tomorrow night at Nats Park is just about irrelevant.
However, the eyes of the baseball world and especially those of the members of the Nats’ organization from owner Ted Lerner on down to the batboy as well their fans will be on the man who’ll be the first to touch the ball to start the game.
Of course, that will be Stephen Strasburg, the top overall pick in the 2009 draft who took the sport by storm with his spectacular debut with the Nats last summer until he blew out his right elbow last Aug. 21.
Now after Tommy John surgery, extensive rehab and six successful starts in the minors, the 23-year-old Strasburg is back where he belongs, pitching for the Nats.
While a plethora of pitchers, including Strasburg’s 25-year-old teammate Jordan Zimmermann, have successfully rebounded from the reconstructive operation, there will be a collective holding of breath on South Capitol Street until the franchise’s phenom shows that he’s his old fireballing, batter-embarrassing, crowd-dazzling self.
Washington’s teams haven’t celebrated many big events during the nearly 20 years since the Redskins won their last Super Bowl.
The Redskins had their openers in 2000 and 2003 (featuring Dan Snyder’s free agent signees) and 2004 (Joe Gibbs’ return) as well as the last game at RFK Stadium (1996) and the first game at Redskins Stadium (1997) as well as a 1999 playoff game.
The Bullets/Wizards had their playoff series against the Bulls, Cavaliers and the Heat as well as the debuts of Michael Jordan and John Wall and the finale at Capital Centre and the opener at MCI Center.
The Caps had the 1998 Stanley Cup finals, five Game 7’s, the debuts of Jaromir Jagr and Alex Ovechkin and the finale at Capital Centre and the opener at MCI Center.
The Nats trumped all of those with baseball’s return after a 33-year absence in 2005, the spectacular opening of Nats Park in 2008 and Strasburg’s debut. Tomorrow promises to be another memorable night.
The Redskins still own our hearts despite two decades of bumbling. The Caps are our best team. The Wizards’ Wall offers perhaps the most tantalizing potential. But it’s the Nats who have been providing us with our biggest signature moments. A healthy Strasburg and the sooner rather than later promotion of 2010 top overall pick Bryce Harper to the majors offers the promise of plenty more of those to come.
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 author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.