06/10/09 1:20 PM ET
No. 1 pick Strasburg discusses Draft
Nationals future ace plans vacation before summer work
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
But before the next wave of hype, expectations and speculation washes over him, he's going to take it easy.
Strasburg spoke with reporters from all over the country on a Wednesday conference call set up by his advisor, Scott Boras, in the first official press conference since the coveted 20-year-old right-handed pitcher from San Diego State was selected by the Washington Nationals with the No. 1 overall pick in Tuesday's First-Year Player Draft.
And one of the first things Strasburg said was that he'd be taking a well-earned vacation before he once again dedicates his every moment to thinking about and preparing for his bright future.
"There are a few places I'd like to go," said Strasburg, who declined to reveal where he will end up going. "I'll relax this summer and have fun. ... Obviously [after that] I'm going to get back here and start working out. Take a week off and then get after it again and try to take my game to the next level.
"I threw 109 innings this college season. I think it will be good to get a little rest time, especially after a big workload the year before. It'll be a good summer to be able to lift [weights] and get stronger and have a summer I haven't had in a while."
Strasburg had a Tuesday he hasn't had in a while, celebrating at his mother's house with friends and family and said the experience of hearing his name called first, while expected, brought forth a mixture of feelings.
"It was an amazing feeling," he said. "I had so many different emotions. I was so happy, but at the same time, I was kind of sad that the three years that I've had [in college] that were absolutely amazing have come to an end.
"It just goes to show the last three years how hard I worked to where I am today. I'm so thankful to the coaches and players that helped me along the way."
Strasburg's college coach, Tony Gwynn, is a Hall of Fame baseball player with over 3,000 hits and plenty of knowledge of how to deal with all the pressures of big league ball.
"Coach Gwynn's just the ultimate professional," Strasburg said. "He's coaching college baseball, but he's done a great job for me as far as grooming me for the next level. The difference between college baseball players and pro baseball players is that you're going to have to be self-motivated. You have to go out there and find out what you have to do to get better.
"Just watching how he goes about his business, with all the autographs he has to sign, all the press conferences, all the guest-speaking lunches. All that stuff kind of wears on you at times, but you have to take it in stride. You have to remember that this is a game you love and those people have supported you doing what you love."
Strasburg was asked if he came to San Diego State with expectations to cruise through the Mountain West Conference, but he said he never felt that way.
"I never really thought anything was going to be handed to me," he said. "I just never really understood what I needed to do personally to be successful. That's what I really learned at San Diego State.
"I came in at 250 pounds, pretty overweight, and I was able to shed all that and get a lot stronger from it."
When asked if he was aware of all the hyped pitching prospects in Draft history that were taken first overall and ended up missing out on memorable Major League careers, Strasburg didn't hesitate to answer it head on.
"What would I learn from other top picks?" he said. "I don't play this game to be the top pick and not be successful in the big leagues. I want to take my game to the next level. I learned how to work hard in college and hope to carry it over."
And as for all the media demands, all the speculation about his prospective contract, and all the talk that will undoubtedly ensue as he and Boras and the Nationals work to strike a lucrative deal and sign before the Aug. 17 deadline, Strasburg essentially said, "Bring it on."
"I'm perfectly fine with it," he said. "There have been people all year this year targeting me. Coach Gwynn told me it comes with the territory. ... [He says] if you're batting .250 or .220, nobody's going to be writing about you, so what would you rather be?"
Looking ahead to the process of working his way through the ranks to the Majors, which many scouts say could happen as soon as late this season, Strasburg wouldn't make any promises.
"You know what? It's tough to say," he said when asked how long he thinks it will take to make it to The Show. "I think the thing is to get up there and get that experience. At every level ... I've been able to rise to the occasion. I love being in big games, I love being in front of a lot of fans. I love taking my game to the next level."
Boras handled all business-related questions, and there were many. Most centered on how much money Strasburg will be looking for, and while Boras wouldn't put a number on it, he continually referred to the pitcher as a talent on an "extraordinary" level, comparing him to big-bonus earners of the recent past such as J.D. Drew, Mark Teixeira and Mark Prior and explaining that in cases like these, history has proven that contract numbers far above the rest of the players in the first round are commonplace.
Boras also said it's very likely that Strasburg will sign before the deadline.
"I think whenever you're drafted by a Major League team, the focus throughout the negotiations is, 99 percent of the time, to reach an agreement with a Major League affiliate and sign the athlete," Boras said.
"If that does not happen, you then would look to all the available resources one would have to evaluate what the next step is, including another Draft or an alternative place for the player to perform.
"But I would say in our history in the hundreds of entry-level contracts that we've done that it's a rare case that a deal does not get done with a Major League team. I'm sure it's in the 90th percentile."
Boras said he would be looking forward to dealing with Washington general manager Mike Rizzo because the two have had a good relationship in the past.
"I think Mike Rizzo is one of the best talent evaluators in the game," Boras said. "We've had a lot of success together, and Mike's been a professional and he's a very talented guy and I've always enjoyed working with him."
Boras also had great things to say about Gwynn.
"I must say that the work that Tony Gwynn and [SDSU pitching coach] Rusty Filter have done with Stephen is extraordinary because of the fact that, not only physically, but mentally, they've brought the player's confidence and approach and idea of professionalism to a young man that has made him so developed as a player.
"There are many elements to Stephen that are consistent with what you'd expect of a Major League pitcher, and that could only come from Tony, [who has taught him that] there's always more to do, there's always more to learn. It's a constant return to a work ethic regardless of the situation.
"You're talking almost about the perfect union between skills of a collegiate athlete and one of the most historic players in the game. You almost wish that Tony Gwynn would open up a school where he would be able to tutor a lot more athletes than the 35 he gets. He's a very special college coach, and he does it in a very unique way."
As Strasburg repeated, Gwynn's guidance over the last three years will be key in helping him continue to deal with the reality of his superstar status.
"The bottom line is all year I've never been worrying about the hype," Strasburg said. "I've just been going out there and trying to help my team win a ballgame.
"That's what I'll do at the next level."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.