Padres proud of local son going No. 1
Strasburg, pride of San Diego, goes first in Draft to Nats
LOS ANGELES -- The San Diego Padres sat in the visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday afternoon and watched as a favorite local son moved one step closer to becoming their Major League peer.
It's safe to say the flat-screen television held many of the Padres in rapt attention as Stephen Strasburg, the heralded 20-year-old right-hander from San Diego State, was selected by the Washington Nationals with the No. 1 overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft.
For three Padres with connections to Strasburg, it was a moment to remember.
San Diego outfielder Tony Gwynn is the son of the legendary former Padres player and Hall of Famer who coached Strasburg at San Diego State. The younger Gwynn also was an Aztec and said Tuesday he was proud to see how far Strasburg -- and the San Diego State program -- has come.
"They've accomplished a lot this year," Gwynn said. "First of all, they made it to a [College World Series] regional for the first time in 18 years, and it wasn't just two [games] and out. They won a game. So that's huge right there.
"And obviously, it's great for Stephen to go No. 1 overall, and for my dad and the whole recruiting process to have success like that."
Gwynn said he's sure Strasburg will succeed, despite all the expectations that have been heaped on the right-hander with a fastball that exceeds 100 mph and knee-buckling breaking stuff.
"It seems like he's a got a great head on his shoulders," Gwynn said. "He's also a guy who wants to play and improve. He'll work hard."
Padres starter Jake Peavy, who won the Cy Young Award in 2007, has worked hard to become one of the best in the game, too. He is listed as Strasburg's favorite athlete in the San Diego State baseball media guide.
The right-hander said he hadn't met Strasburg, but naturally had heard about him and was flattered by Strasburg's published Peavy props.
"That's humbling," Peavy said with a smile. "I'm definitely a fan of the game, and I know this guy's been impressive in college. He's got a great fastball and a great breaking ball and looks like he has good command.
"It would be cool to get a chance to meet him someday. Maybe I can throw some things his way that could help him out somehow. And maybe he can throw some things my way and help me out, too. This game's funny."
Adding funny to the mix was Padres manager Bud Black, the former big league lefty who pitched for his beloved San Diego State Aztecs in 1978 and 1979. Black struck out 85 batters in 1978, only 79 less than Strasburg fanned this year.
When asked who was the best hurler in the history of the school, Black cracked, "I would say me, then him."
"But seriously," he added, "the exposure that the school's gotten because of his talent has been phenomenal. Hopefully, this helps his ascent and his development."
Black lauded the elder Gwynn plus San Diego State pitching coach Rusty Filter, assistant coach Mark Martinez and the rest of the staff.
"The No. 1 pick in the country really says something," Black said. "It means a lot of people are doing a great job and making this kid be as good as he can be. It's exciting for the school and for the future."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.