Strasburg returns with bronze medal medal

by Staff

Stephen Strasburg said he wasn’t nervous.

Even with more than 15,000 fans in attendance and millions more watching from the seats of their couches, the San Diego State baseball team’s pitcher took the mound for team USA in the 2008 Beijing Olympics as calmly and cooly as a crafty Major League Baseball veteran.

There was no fear or worried jitters; just a raging sense of adrenaline Strasburg had seen plenty of times before.

“I was just excited to pitch on that stage,” Strasburg said. “I was really amped up for both games, especially playing in front of all those fans.

“I knew just from pitching in some big games here what it was going to be like to have your adrenaline going and I knew what to do to correct it.”

And correct it he did. The junior hurler pitched a no-hitter into the seventh inning in his first Olympic outing against the Netherlands on Aug. 14 at the Wukesong Baseball Field in Beijing. He was dominant, finishing the night with 11 strikeouts in seven innings, giving up just one hit and one walk in the 7-0 victory.

“It’s obviously a great feeling to wear the USA across your chest,” Strasburg said of his time at the Olympics. “It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

While Strasburg’s second outing against Cuba on Aug. 22 paled in comparison to his masterful performance against the Dutch a week before, he still struck out five in just four innings pitched.

The Aztecs’ two- game Olympic statline was staggering: a 1.64 ERA with a strikeout total (16) good enough for second best in the entire Beijing Olympics.

It was a line so impressive, MLB scouts across the globe had to take notice of SDSU’s ace.

“Personally, I try and stay away from scouts,” Strasburg said. He later admitted it would be great to pitch for the hometown Padres in the future. “It’s kind of a little too early to be talking to any of them. I just go out there and take every outing as a new opportunity to get better.”

Even though Strasburg’s Olympics garnered him national attention, it was the overall experience the pitcher seemed most excited about. He watched badminton matches with crowds larger than those at Cox Arena, he witnessed the duo of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh win the gold medal in beach volleyball and he even caught a game from the gold medal-winning USA Olympic women’s basketball team.

But all those events took a back seat to meeting President George W. Bush.

“I got goose bumps, that’s for sure,” Strasburg said. “It’s something that not too many people are able to do. He was a real nice guy, he asked me where I played ball and he was kind of surprised that I was still in college. But that’s definitely something that I’m going to remember.”

Strasburg kept several mementos from his memorable time in Beijing including jerseys and autographed balls. But his most prized possession was the bronze medal he was able to help his country earn in the 2008 Games.

“I think I’m going to hang it up somewhere,” Strasburg said of the medal that he had obviously been carrying around in his pocket all day. “My mom’s been kind of putting my room together with some awards and everything.”

And after an impressive Olympic summer that included a 4-0 record with the USA National Team a month prior to the Games, his walls have become quite cluttered.

But the awards on the wall will never compare to the memories Strasburg gained during his Olympic experience.

“You’re going out there and competing for your country and trying to represent your country in the right way,” he said. “Especially with all the fans, all the people scattered out with U.S. flags everywhere (during the medal ceremony), it was like, ‘Wow, I just accomplished something pretty special.'”

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