Does a baseball superstition trump a baseball bond?
For San Diego State baseball head coach Mark Martinez and Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg it does not.
“I’m a baseball guy, so I’m very superstitious, it was very hard for me to push send,” Martinez said, referring to a text message he wrote the former Aztec pitcher congratulating him on winning the National League pennant.
“I hope I didn’t jinx anything, I did wish him congrats with the text, but at same time I almost didn’t push send because I’m very superstitious, so hopefully I didn’t mess it up for the Nationals and Stephen,” Martinez said.
The Nationals, with Strasburg playing a starring role, have been on an amazing post-season run, upsetting the Los Angeles Dodgers in 5 games, then sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals. Next up, the World Series against the Houston Astros, with Strasburg slated to start game 2.
In 41 career post-season innings, Strasburg has been a mound marvel. A 1.10 ERA, 57 strikeouts and just 5 walks, this post-season has been more of the same, a 3-0 record, 0.86 WHIP, 1.64 ERA, 33 strikeouts and 1 Walk in 22 innings.
When Strasburg takes the mound in the World Series, Martinez says it will be a big day for San Diego State baseball and like much of Aztecs nation, the coach will be hanging on every pitch.
When asked about expectations for Strasburg’s start, Martinez half joking answered, “A no-hitter, but a 7-inning shutout and leave the game with the lead would be unbelievable as well.”
Martinez was an assistant coach when Strasburg played for the Aztecs from 2007 to 2009, while Strasburg’s results in the pros and college are similar, the way he pitches to get those results has changed.
“It’s a different style of pitching. Here at SDSU, he could dominate a college lineup with his fastball, I think once you get to the big leagues everybody is throwing in the high 90’s. He’s found a way to pitch to strengths, the curveball and changeup. His fastball can still range from 95 to 98 miles per hour, but the thing I’ve seen is he slows guys down and speeds them, keeps them off balance and he doesn’t walk anybody," Martinez said.
“It’s been unbelievable to watch his career develop in the big leagues, from moment he stepped on field in Nationals uniform and had 14 strikeouts in his first game and never looked back.”
Strasburg’s focused on the helping the Nationals win the first World Series in franchise history, but win or lose, when the fever of post-season baseball dies down, the 31 year-old San Diego native will be back on the SDSU diamond helping the current Aztec baseball team.
You see, Strasburg never strays too far from the black and red of SDSU.
“He knows a lot of guys, he comes and works out in the off-season, so he’s connected to our program. It’s a big sense of pride for our program,” Martinez said.
Asked what his favorite Strasburg San Diego State moment was, Martinez said, “the no-hitter to finish his career here in front of a jam-packed stadium.”
In his final home game at San Diego State, Strasburg pitched a no-hitter against Air Force, further cementing his legacy as an Aztec legend.
“Throwing a no-hitter on his last time on the mesa, I just got chills thinking about it just now,” said Martinez.
Maybe there will be more chills to come in the World Series, as Strasburg looks to add some “worldly” magical moments to his strong San Diego resume.