This week, the Washington Nationals will look to the stars and celebrate two monumental events pertaining to two of their shiniest. Sunday, June 8 markes the one year anniversary of the now famous Stephen Strasburg debut. After nearly a year of waiting, a year of hype and a year hearing all about what this San Diego native could throw, Washington finally got the chance to see him in action in person, and he delivered. Some call it the most important baseball performance played in Washington in a generation. I tend to agree.
The other cosmic event took place this Sunday just north of Natstown. Sunday marked the beginning of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman’s rehabilitation stint with the Hagerstown Suns, which is an event in itself. Even more fascinating and coincidental was that budding prospect Bryce Harper joined him. The 18-year old, a superstar in the making in the Nationals organization, held his own this past March in Spring Training (with Zimmerman in the corner) and has absolutely exploded in the South Atlantic League with the Hagerstown Suns. He has raked, shredded, demolished (pick whatever adjective, he has done it) the competition so much so that it is only a matter of time before he moves onto the next level.
The Future of the Franchise playing with the Face of the Franchise if only for a few days or weeks. It was a Nats' fan boy’s preemptive wet dream - or so it was hoped. Harper unfortunately left the game after his first at-bat after he was drilled in the leg by a pitch. In pain, he limped off the field on his own accord. Fortunately it does not sound too bothersome, just a bruise.
Strasburg and Harper. Washington waits in anticipation for the day those two names appear on the same lineup card together. The hopes and dreams of the organization fall heavily on the shoulders of these two players, and it is quite the burden to bear. Fortunately, both seem built and ready to handle the situation, but you couldn’t find two more different types of individuals to give the responsibility.
In Chinese philosophy, there is a belief that contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent and give rise to each other. This bit of Taoism is known the world over as Yin And Yang. Nationals fans are beginning to call it Stras And Bryce. When these two stars align, they will be so similar, but so much different at the same time.
The two phenoms beginnings in baseball could be no different. One is a pitcher, the other is a position player. Strasburg’s career began uneventfully and under the radar. Not even the best tealeaf readers could foresee what was about to happen to him. Harper was bred in the hottest fires of the sport and it was known early this kid was going to be special. One could say Harper was the first ballplayer to be made a sensation by Youtube after a video of him hitting 500-foot home runs in high school surfaced.
Strasburg is quiet, introverted, deep thinking. He covets his privacy, and sometimes he and the team go at great lengths to protect it. So much so that his humbleness sometimes gives the impression of arrogance and fear of the occupation he has chosen for himself. Harper, on the other hand is a pure extrovert. When it comes to words, he always has plenty of them ready to speak his mind. He has no problem with the limelight, and in fact seems like he was made for it. This gives a cocky aura to him that is perhaps just as unjustly earned as Strasburg’s meekness.
One has just started on the path to baseball glory. The other is on it, if not a little side tracked presently. Two different players with two different backgrounds, but once they step onto the diamond, they both become one with the game. Both are aggressive, both have the capability to electrify a crowd and change a game. One day soon, both will be wearing the same uniform on the same field.
And who knows, Nationals fans might even get a chance to see these two fuse and rise together this season. Harper remains in Hagerstown for now, and his next move is unknown to everyone except the honorable, but possibly slightly mad general manager Mike Rizzo. Harper will likely be running the gauntlet of Nationals affiliates in 2011, with a possible next stop in Potomac. Strasburg has continued to throw bullpen sessions and prepare for his own rehab assignment in a few months. Who knows where Strasburg will land, but if the stars align right...
Hey, it can happen. On June 5, 2011, stars did align in Hagerstown. If only for a few minutes, the Face and the Future were on the same field in games that counted nearly a year after that the Yin manifested itself in Strasburg. Now Natstown is waiting for the Yang to arrive in the form of Harper and bring a balance to the Nationals own brand of philosophy. In the words of Dr. Peter Venkman: "We’ve got to get these two together."
Yes. Yes the Nationals do for many more days to remember.