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Olympian Stephen Strasburg Caps Off MLB Season With World Series Title, MVP Award

By Chrös McDougall | Oct. 31, 2019, 12:56 p.m. (ET)

Stephen Strasburg pitches on Oct. 14, 2019 in Washington, D.C.

 

Eleven years ago in Beijing, a 20-year-old Stephen Strasburg pitched in two games as Team USA went on to win an Olympic bronze medal.

Much has happened in the decade since, but on Wednesday his long journey through baseball continued as he reached the top of a different level when he led his Washington Nationals to the 2019 World Series title over the Houston Astros.

Strasburg was one of 11 USA Baseball alums on the Nationals, while the American League champion Astros featured four former national teamers.

Only Strasburg is an Olympian, though.

In 2008, Strasburg was the only amateur on the U.S. Olympic Baseball Team. A sophomore at San Diego State, he was 1-1 with a 1.64 ERA in Beijing, with the highlight being a seven-inning, one-hit performance against the Netherlands.

One year later, the Nationals picked him first overall in the MLB draft, and he quickly became one of the most anticipated prospects in recent baseball history.

However, after making his major league debut in 2010, the Southern California native battled through injuries that threatened to derail his career. Although he never became the dominant ace that he was in college, he did become a solid top-end starter, making four All-Star Games, and in a sport with steadily rising offensive numbers he never lost his ability to strike hitters out, leading the National League in that metric in 2014.

In 2019, Strasburg was healthy and able to give his team the playoff push it needed. The right hander, now 31 years old, pitched an NL-best 209 innings and earned a league-leading 18 wins, a career high. He also struck out a career-high 251 batters.

And he saved some of his best pitching for the playoffs.

Following a dismal start in which they were 12 games under .500 in May, the Nationals rallied back to win an NL wild-card berth.

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Strasburg came out of the bullpen to help lead the team to victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in that wild-card game, and he struck out 33 while giving up just four earned runs in four playoff appearances to help the Nationals reach their first World Series.

Then he stepped it up a notch again, this time starting (and winning) the second and sixth games over Houston, giving up just four earned runs while striking out 14 in 14.1 innings pitched. Following the Nationals’ 6-2 Game 7 win on Wednesday, he was named World Series MVP.

Ten of his teammates have also suited up for USA Baseball teams in the past.

Infielder Howie Kendrick played on the Professional National Team in 2005, while catcher Kurt Suzuki was on the team in 2006.

Six others were all members of the Collegiate National Team, including Strasburg in 2008. They were Sean Doolittle (2005 & 2006), Erick Fedde (2013), Anthony Rendon (2010), Max Scherzer (2005), Trea Turner (2012 & 2013) and Ryan Zimmerman (2004).

Meanwhile, Jeremy Hellickson played on the 2003 16U National Team, and Joe Ross was on the 2007 14U National Team.

For the Astros, infielder Alex Bregman has made the rounds with USA Baseball, competing with the 2010 16U National Team, 2011 18U National Team, 2013 & 2014 Collegiate National Team and in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Three teammates also played for the Collegiate National Team: Gerrit Cole (2009 & 2010), George Springer (2010) and Justin Verlander (2003).

Baseball was removed from the Olympic program following those 2008 Olympics, though it’s being added back in for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. However, Strasburg and other players on MLB 40-man rosters will not be eligible.

The U.S. could earn a berth in the six-team 2020 Olympic tournament through the WBSC Premier12 tournament, which begins this weekend.

Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic and Paralympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

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