Strasburg’s Minor League Debut

This afternoon I went to Altoona to see Stephen Strasburg make his minor league debut with the Harrisburg Senators. The afternoon was glorious for April, with the sun shining brightly, a slight breeze blowing, and enough clouds to make the sky interesting to look at.

I pulled onto the Frankstown Road Exit in Altoona at 1:03pm. It took me almost 40 minutes to get from that point to the ballpark (it should take about 2 minutes). Traffic was intense. My car decided to produce troubling amounts of rather conspicuous smoky exhaust while I was stuck in traffic. It looked like I was driving a steam locomotive to the ballpark. I’m afraid I might need to get that checked out.

The mood was festive around Blair County Ballpark. It was by far the fullest I have ever seen the park (the announced attendance was 7,887). I was sitting in the second deck, all the lower level seats were sold out when I bought my ticket days ago. This year the Curve have the slogan “Curve, PA” all over the place. Insinuating that the team name is a location in Pennsylvania. By the end of the game I found the signs, graphics, and mentions of Curve, PA annoying.

Where exactly is Curve, Pa?

In the bottom of the first inning the moment of truth arrived. Mr Strasburg took the mound.

Strasburg's first official minor league pitch.

The person running the radar gun came up small in a big moment. Strasburg’s first five or six pitches were not displayed. But he needed a lot of pitches to get through the first inning, so the radar glitch was fixed in time to document that his fastball was locked in at 97 mph. The Curve plated a run, the only earned run they would get against Strasburg.

Strasburg on the mound.

Strasburg settled into a rhythm in the second and third innings. He threw several 98 mph fastballs, and looked untouchable. In the fourth inning faulty defense by the Senators allowed three unearned runs to score. In that inning and the fifth inning Strasburg broke out all sorts of offspeed pitches. On the day his pitch speed ranged from 79 mph to 98 mph. I could recognize three distinct pitches, which I assume were fastball, changeup, and curveball.

He cranked the gun to 98 several times.

In the top of the sixth inning Strasburg knocked in the tying run with an impressive double to right field. It was a frozen rope over the right fielders head. He then scored what turned out to be the winning run. The Senators turned to the bullpen to start the bottom of the sixth, so Starsburg’s day ended with 5 innings pitched, 1 earned run, 8 strikeouts, plus an RBI and run scored (he would later get the win).

Strasburg a millisecond before scoring his first ever minor league run.

I think Strasburg pitched quite well. He had the Curve hitters off balance, and some of the strikeouts were almost comical.

A common sight on the day: Strike Three.

One of the little on-field promotions during a changeover involved jousting. The winner wasted no time. As soon as the referee said go he promptly blasted his opponent’s “head” off, which I believe was the goal of the game. The green contestant was guarding his body, leaving his head totally exposed. It took about two seconds.

A short contest.

The last few innings moved by fairly quickly. There were two pretty double plays turned on line drives, one in the infield and one in the outfield. The final score was Harrisburg 6, Altoona 4. Late in the game I took a few pictures to create a panorama with. At this point the crowd has diminished a bit because Strasburg was out of the game.

Blair County Ballpark this afternoon.

During the game I spent a good bit of time getting work done (when Strasburg was not on the field). I reviewed lecture notes for tomorrow and experimental design notes in preparation for a meeting I have with a statistician tomorrow morning. I’ve never brought work to the ballpark before, I most definitely do not want that to become a normality.

Now I’ll probably need to pull a late night to accomplish what I should have done instead of going to a baseball game this afternoon. It was worth it.

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