Hagerstown Suns fans welcome Strasburg back
Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg pitches Wednesday for the Hagerstown Suns against the Lexington Legends. (By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer)
It didn't matter much that Stephen Strasburg was hit hard in the game against the Lexington Legends, as the right-hander allowed five runs and four hits over 1 2/3 innings.
Strasburg cruised through his first two rehab starts, but he gave up a walk, double, single and double before retiring his first batter. He also allowed a double and a walk in the second inning before being pulled as he approached his pitch-count limit of 50. He struck out three and walked two.
Nonetheless, Suns fans said the second appearance by Strasburg in the Hub City could go a long way in turning on more people to baseball in Hagerstown.
"I'm loving it out here," Brian Hann of Chambersburg, Pa., said before the start of the game.
"I think it's great," said Tony Amrosi of Hagerstown. "I'd like to see him pitch more than four innings."
Amrosi said he sees four to five games each year at Municipal Stadium, but it is "never this crowded."
Lines of people stood in the aisles in the grandstand to watch Strasburg pitch, and some fans donned red No. 37 jerseys with "Strasburg" on the back.
But for some, it was a great experience, Strasburg or no Strasburg.
"I'm just here to enjoy baseball," said Dick Vidoni of Hagerstown.
Vidoni said he was no "sports groupie" and doesn't keep up on baseball statistics.
"I know that's what's making it crowded," Vidoni said of Strasburg's appearance. "It's a real shot in the arm to the local stadium."
"I know nothing about the guy," Peter Sherman of Smithsburg said as he sipped a drink before the start of the game.
Sherman figured it would be fun to go to the game "just for kicks," given all the hype over Strasburg's attempt to get return to Major League baseball after undergoing elbow surgery.
Sherman said he was on vacation recently in Portugal, where he read online about Strasburg's return to baseball and his appearance with the Class A Suns in Hagerstown.
Sherman said he couldn't believe what he was reading.
"I said, 'I can't get away from Hagerstown. Even in Portugal, I can't get away from Hagerstown,'" Sherman said.
Sherman said the "hottest new thing in baseball" was bound to create a huge boost for Hagerstown.
Tim Miller, who lives near Winchester, Va., agreed that Strasburg's appearance will be good for the town, although he said it will be short-lived.
"It will be back to normal tomorrow," Miller said.
Jim Gallert likes baseball, no matter where he is. Gallert lives in Detroit, but is in Hagerstown on business for the Volvo Powertrain plant on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Gallert said he likes to see minor league baseball in his travels across the country because it is one of the "last bastions of Americana."
It's a classic experience because baseball exudes the true American spirit that so far is not spoiled by commercialism in the sport, Gallert said.
"It's America at it's best. It's like jazz, it's a true American creation," Gallert said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.