- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Drew Storen just turned 22 years old, and two months before that, he signed a deal with the Washington Nationals that gave him a $1.6 million signing bonus.

He pulls up to the ballpark in a yellow pickup truck - not an immodest ride but one that certainly lets onlookers know he has done well for himself at a young age.

So you might be a little surprised to learn that Storen, the 10th pick in June’s MLB draft, thinks this whole minor league experience - living with a host family, busing around the Mid-Atlantic and dressing in clubhouses the size of a locker room at your local community center - is actually kind of cool.

“A lot of times you hear the extreme horror stories. With the book ‘Odd Man Out’ out, you’re hearing all that,” Storen said. “It’s really not as bad as everybody makes it. We get taken care of here.”

That Storen referenced a baseball book to debunk the myths about minor league baseball should come as no surprise to anyone who has been around him. He’s already a baseball lifer at 22, having grown up around big league clubhouses at the side of his father, longtime broadcaster Mark Patrick, and talking to Chad Cordero during a chance meeting of Nationals closers past and future while Storen was a ballboy in Cincinnati.

When the Nationals took him out of Stanford in June, he signed a day later in part because he said he missed playing; his season had been over for two weeks.

He blazed through Class A Hagerstown in a matter of weeks and did the same at Class A Potomac; Storen was promoted to Class AA Harrisburg on Tuesday. Even as he zeroes in on a stated goal of reaching the major leagues by September, he talks in almost reverential tones about the players with whom he’s fleetingly crossing paths.

“College baseball’s great, but these guys are really good,” Storen said. “We sit down in the bullpen every day and talk about how we love watching [Potomac second baseman Michael] Martinez and [shortstop Daniel] Espinosa. … That’s probably one of the coolest parts - watching guys who are that good.”

In some ways, it’s almost as if Storen is too good to be true.

After serving up a couple of home runs in his first week at Hagerstown, Storen has been borderline unhittable since. He walked only two batters in a combined 24 2/3 innings at Hagerstown and Potomac, striking out 37 with a 2.92 ERA.

Since he signed with the Nationals on June 10, a day after being drafted, he has done nothing to hurt his chances of joining Washington by the end of the season.

“He’ll get what’s coming to him in the end,” Potomac manager Trent Jewett said. “I think time wasted in the signing period is time wasted in the front and the back of your career. There wasn’t any of that. The guy wanted to play ball. He’s doing it, and it’s refreshing.”

Armed with a mid-90s fastball and a sharp curveball, Storen figures to be a late-inning presence in the Nationals’ bullpen by next season at the latest. He came to the Nationals as a rare draft-eligible sophomore itching to get into professional baseball - a product, he said, of an occasional streak of impatience.

But for the time he’s in the minors, Storen seems intent on soaking up everything he can.

He regularly posts updates after games on Twitter - as does his mother, Pam - and regards even the most grizzled minor leaguers as potential mentors.

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