Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Drew Storen's Major League Debut

There was this endearing goofiness to Drew Storen's Major League Debut last night in St. Louis.

A lot of symbolism too.

Called on to relieve in the bottom of the 7th with one out, one runner on and Our Washington Nationals down by two to The St. Louis Cardinals, Jim Riggleman was throwing the Stanford Rookie right into the mix. Our Manager not letting Storen get his feet wet in a mop up role. Manager Jim was putting Drew right into the fire.

Storen came trotting out of Washington's bullpen amped, sky high, and you could see it in his darting eyes under his pulled-down flat-brim hat as he stood on the mound. He was trying to take it all in--as Felipe Lopez stepped to the plate to bat against him for the very first time in a Major League Game.

Yes, FLop. Somehow, The Baseball Gods had done it again.

If there was one player that hit the nerve of fans for Our Washington Nationals from 2007 through 2008 and symbolized all that was wrong with D.C. Baseball--it was Felipe Lopez. A talented underachiever that lost focus and eventually quit of his Washington teammates. Few players since The Nation's Capital returned to Major League Baseball were run out of town--and released--with such acclaim and cheers.

Felipe Lopez was the scapegoat then.

Now, two years later, wearing Cardinals white, red & gold, FLop stood with his bat in the lefthanded batters box facing all that is good about Our Washington Nationals in one--Drew Storen. Talent, hope, THE WANTING TO BE HERE. The excitement which arises knowing good times for D.C. Baseball are on the horizon. That contrast could not have been more stark. Lopez representing what was. Storen personifying what is today.

A New Look, Forward Thinking, Washington Nationals Franchise.

As Our Rookie wearing Number 58 threw his first Big League pitch to Felipe Lopez well off the plate for ball one--you could tell he was nervous--his facial expressions said it all. He was overly excited--rightfully so. But when Josh Willingham made a nice running backhanded catch into the leftfield wall on a FLop foul fly on the very next pitch--you could see a rush of relief settle over him.

At least until Storen hit Cardinals Slugger Ryan Ludwick with a pitch on his left hand. A stinger that brought out medical attention from the St. Louis Bench, some boos down from the Busch Stadium Crowd and this surreal smirk on Drew Storen's face. Trying to avoid too much attention--the righthanded reliever now had everyone in St. Louis focused on his debut.

Everyone knows, The Cardinals have a great hitting lineup. And after retiring FLop but hitting Ludwick, Drew Storen found himself in big trouble with a two out, two on situation and Matt Holliday coming to the plate. The Greatest Hitter In The Game--Albert Pujols--waiting on deck for St. Louis. Drew needed to get this out. But when he fell behind 2-1 in the count--out stepped Jim Riggleman from the dugout to slow things down. Storen was looking a little lost, a little frustrated and little bit out of his element.

Our Manager went to settle his rookie.

Whatever Our Number 5 said to Our New Number 58 must have worked--as Drew Storen pitched confidently the remainder of this At-Bat. And when he struck out Matt Holliday on a 94-MPH inside fastball for the final out of the frame--you could visibly see all the pressure of his Major League Debut wipe cleanly from his face. A huge smile now replacing worry. His catcher, Pudge Rodriguez, meeting him halfway to the visiting dugout, walking the rest of the way together--almost hand in hand--smiling, laughing and enjoying the success of Drew Storen's first Big League appearance.

It wasn't overly pretty and the goofy looks he expressed on his face were quite endearing. But the symbolism of Drew Storen first facing FLop in his Major League Debut should not be forgotten. It truly was like two ships passing through the night. Washington eventually lost this game 6-2 to The St. Louis Cardinals, but most Washington fans will just remember another future for Our Washington Nationals setting foot on center stage last night for the very first time--and not disappointing.

Photo Jeff Roberson (AP)

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