LAKELAND, Fla. — The plans for the trip were already in place long before manager Davey Johnson made the formal announcement on Wednesday that Stephen Strasburg would be his Opening Day starter. But once he did, once the Nationals’ right-hander knew for certain that he’d been given the honor to open his team’s season on the mound, the itinerary seemed that much more fortuitous.
Strasburg will make his second Opening Day start for the Nationals on April 1, his first in front of a home crowd at Nationals Park. And while pitching on Opening Day at Wrigley Field in 2012 was something special, Strasburg is eager to find out what this one will be like.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” he said last week. “I think it’s obviously going to be pretty cool starting the home opener. Last year in Wrigley was great, but this is going to be in front of, hopefully, a sellout crowd at home.”
Part of that crowd will be a few members of Strasburg’s family, who’ve turned his start in D.C. into one stop on a cross-country road trip.
The trip will start outside of Augusta, Ga., Strasburg said, where his dad, joined by his brother, will visit with one of the right-hander’s cousins. They’ll make their way south from there to Viera, Fla., to catch the end of the Nationals’ spring training schedule, and then head north to D.C.
But it won’t end there.
“My grandfather, my dad and my uncle’s dad, was stationed right outside of Cincinnati for a bit, so they grew up Reds fans,” Strasburg said. “So they’re probably going to go from here up to D.C. and then D.C. to Cincinnati, and then back home.”
Home, of course, being San Diego.
“It’s a long trip for them, cross country,” Strasburg said.
The timing of it, though, means Strasburg will likely make it worth their while as he’s on schedule to get his first two starts of the season during their trip. And this season, with no eventual shutdown hovering over the Nationals’ ace, he’ll be able to enjoy it along with them.
“At this time last year, I really had the idea that I wasn’t going to get shut down,” Strasburg said, asked if this Opening Day start would be special because he had no restrictions this season. “It wasn’t until later in the season that it started to sink in that it was going to for sure happen.
“But I’m just excited. Hopefully all the hard work in the offseason, and everything I do every single day to stay healthy, is going to pay off and I make every start this year — and hopefully a lot of quality starts.”