Click "play" in the embedded podcast to listen to The Racing Presidents' interview with Jim Kaat and click here to subscribe to the podcast.
The day Stephen Strasburg made his major league debut is a day Nationals and baseball fans alike will not soon forget.
The same goes for MLB analyst Jim Kaat, who called the June 8 game against the Pittsburgh Pirates 9 years ago.
“To see a crowd like Washington come alive like that for baseball, you’d have to pinch yourself and say, ‘is this the Redskins game?’ because it had that kind of enthusiasm," Kaat said on the Racing Presidents Podcast.
As soon as the Nationals announced Strasburg would make his MLB debut against the Pirates, tickets sold out at Nats Park within two hours. The stadium holds over 41,000.
“It was more than just an ordinary game," Kaat said.
The atmosphere in Nationals Park that day was electric, reminiscent of October baseball. Fans were on their feet before and after every strikeout. Strasburg got 14, a Nationals franchise record at the time.
Kaat, an MLB pitching great, understood the pressure that Strasburg was undergoing during his debut.
“When I watched him walk out to the mound to warm up, I thought, what would I be thinking and going through?" Kaat said.
Kaat also examines the Nationals' hotly contested decision to shut down Strasburg towards the end of the 2012 season, when the team looked like front runners to make their first World Series appearance.
“It looked like they were the team that year that maybe could have gone to the World Series," Kaat said.
Because the Nationals were so hot at the time, many contested the decision to shut Strasburg down when the team had the potential to go far in the playoffs.
"I would have gone to my agent, the general manager, and said ‘hey, I may never get here again and I want to pitch," Kaat said.
The Nationals ultimately decided that Strasburg's health was a priority, factoring into their decision to re-sign the pitcher to a seven-year, $175 million contract extension in 2016.
Listen to the full episode linked below.
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