30 Players in 30 Days: Drew Storen

70110-228 drew storen.JPGAs you read this, Drew Storen is probably either in class or studying for one. Such is the life of a young professional baseball player, right? Not exactly. A Wall Street Journal study found that only 26 players and managers on last year’s rosters graduated from a four-year college. That averages to less than one per team. But we’ve known for a while, Storen is not the average Major Leaguer. While others hide from the media, Storen gladly obliges to every interview request. Nor is he the average guy. Storen grew up playing H.O.R.S.E. with then-Pacers star Reggie Miller and is friends with Gordon Hayward and Toby Gerhart. Based on these aberrations from the “norm,” you shouldn’t be surprised that while other Major League stars spend their offseason either back home, catching up with family, or playing in fall and winter leagues, Storen is immersed in student life at Stanford University, living in a dorm and moving closer towards earning a degree in Product Design.

Then again, it wasn’t long ago that Storen was last taking classes at Stanford–a year and a half ago to be exact. At that time, he had no Major League contract, but was pacing the Cardinals in wins, saves, ERA and appearances. Then, on June 9, 2009, the Nationals selected Storen with the 10th overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft. Storen signed less than 24 hours later, breezed through three levels of Minor League ball and played in the Arizona Fall League, where he first befriended Stephen Strasburg. He started off the 2010 season saving Strasburg’s first Minor League game, showing him how to use an inflatable pool raft as a mattress on long bus trips and answering more media questions about Strasburg than about himself. Storen made his Big League debut on May 17, less than a year after signing. Despite how much has changed in so little time, despite how many planes, buses and trains he has been on in the past year, Storen remains focused on his goals, especially when it comes to getting an education. “I think I’d be disappointed in wasting a Stanford education,” Storen says. “I need to utilize it. If baseball doesn’t work out, I can fall back on my education.”

Perhaps it is that same drive to see goals to completion that will ensure Storen’s success in the Major Leagues. His work ethic is matched with a deeply competitive nature. He lives for the spotlight and enjoys the pressure, at one point admitting he prefers playing in a stadium of booing fans. “That gets you fired up,” Storen said. “Obviously it’s great to have a good crowd and I’ve gotten great ovations every time I’ve thrown [at Nationals Park]. So that’s always cool, but it’s always a lot more fun when people are cheering against you.”

Storen was at season’s best form when the Nationals traded away All-Star Matt Capps to the Twins for catching prospect Wilson Ramos at the end of July. Fans looked to Storen to “seal the deal” as the Nationals closer. He didn’t. At his worst, he gave up four runs in the ninth inning, including a walk-off home run to Jayson Werth, to lose the game at Citzens Bank Park. But manager Jim Riggleman explained that the team has different plans and is, perhaps, a little more patient than the fans. “I don’t think we’ve anointed anybody as the closer,” he said. “We’re hoping someday Drew is that guy that can pitch in the ninth. We’re not saying it’s now. We’re not saying it’s next year.”

Some fans expressed disappointment over his late season performance, expecting Storen to shine when given the opportunity to play a bigger role out of the bullpen. However, despite how fans felt regarding whether or not Storen lived up to the great expectations before him, Storen still ended the season with favorable numbers. He did not allow a run in 38 or 54 appearances while allowing just 14.8 percent of inherited runners to score, best among all Nationals relievers. Storen was only given the opportunity to save the game seven times, all in the last two months of the season, so for all the premature discussion concerning whether or not he is the closer of the future, time will only tell to what capacity Storen best serves the Nats. 

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