Thursday, February 5, 2009

WORKING your way to the top

Great article from on Stephen Strasburg, the projected #1 overall draftpick in this year's MLB Draft. The article speaks of how 30 MLB teams passed on Strasburg out of HS and now 29 of them may not even get a chance to get him. Strasburg came out of highschool as a quality pitcher but he did not have the mental toughness or work ethic to reach his full potential. He has learned those two qualities at San Diego State and now looks to be a lock for #1. Below are a few excerpts from the article.

Strasburg in HS:

Strasburg, who was born in San Diego, pitched for West Hills High in Santee, about 10 miles northeast of the SDSU campus. He displayed flashes of brilliance his senior year, touching 90 mph with his fastball and posting a 1.68 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 62 innings.
But Strasburg also was carrying nearly 250 pounds on a 6-foot-4 frame. He didn't wear it well. And at times he seemed as undisciplined on the mound as he was at the dinner plate.
"I was a chubby kid," Strasburg admitted, "with a poor mental game out there."
Said Scott Hopgood, Strasburg's coach at West Hills: "There were some very difficult times. The biggest thing is he was hardest on himself. He wanted to win, and he felt like he had to go out and strike everybody out.
"Twice he had no-hitters in the fifth and gave up a jam shot. He would be totally pissed. The next thing you know he gives up a couple of runs. You go out and talk to him and say, 'OK, why did this happen? You lost your focus. So what. You gave up a hit. Big deal.'
"The mental side of the game was very, very weak."

Strasburg's beginning at SDSU:

In polite circles, scouts said Strasburg was soft or that he lacked mental toughness or intestinal fortitude. Take your pick. Among themselves, they put it more bluntly.
Soon after Strasburg stepped on campus, pitching coach Rusty Filter told him plainly how the local baseball community saw him.
"When Coach Filter told me that's what everybody was saying behind my back, that really pissed me off," Strasburg said. "I was out there to prove them all wrong. … To this day, that's kind of a sore spot in my heart. But it's fueled the fire to get me where I am today."

Strasburg's frosh and soph years:

"We ran him out there and put him in every hot-box situation that we could," Filter said. "There were times we would intentionally walk someone to load the bases and tell him he had to strike out the next two guys and he was delivering."
Strasburg finished the season with seven saves in 25 appearances, allowing only 10 earned runs. His confidence began to soar. So did his velocity.
Strasburg gained 8 mph on his fastball between his freshman and sophomore seasons. Looks of disbelief registered along with a 101 mph reading on the radar gun during a fall intrasquad. He hit triple digits several times during the season as well.
"I've never seen anything like this," Filter said. "Most guys at that age start to plateau. The benefit in this whole thing is he learned how to pitch before he became a velocity guy.
"I want people to know that he's worked extremely hard, and it's not just a guy blessed with a great arm."

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