Recent GW graduate Pat Lehman spent the afternoon of June 10 sitting in his New Jersey home, following Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft and waiting for his name to pop up and his future as a professional baseball player to take form.
Then he decided it was progressing too slowly, so he flipped on the TV, got his mind off baseball “and waited for a phone call,” he said.
The phone eventually rang – at the onset of the draft’s 13th round, to be exact – from a Washington Nationals scout that he had gotten to know over the course of this past season.
“He called to congratulate me and say I’m a member of the Nationals, which is very exciting news,” Lehman said.
The call and the accompanying news ended a three-week gap between the conclusion of Lehman’s season with the Colonials and the beginning of the next phase of his baseball career. That hiatus was enough time for plenty of anticipation to build and his eyes to look ahead, leading to feelings of alleviation or vigor or some combination of the two.
“A little bit of both,” the reigning Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Year said. “I was kind of anxious to get to this point and now relieved that the wait is over, but I’m excited to go out and play again.”
That opportunity won’t come for another short while, as he awaits instructions from the organization regarding what to do and where to go. In the meantime, Lehman said he is continuing with his daily workout regimen and normal throwing routine, heeding advice from former GW teammate Josh Wilkie, currently a relief pitcher for the Harrisburg Senators, Washington’s Double-A affiliate.
“Don’t complicate things,” Lehman said Wilkie, a 2006 alumnus, told him. “Just keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll be fine.”
Lehman did just that over the weekend preceding the draft, keeping up his impressive pitching performances in a workout at Nationals Park. The 6-foot-3 righty said he spoke with 20 to 25 major league teams over the course of his senior season, but that he held no preference as to which selected him as long as he had an opportunity to succeed.
Still, joining the Nationals came with a special significance, Lehman said, because of the team’s ties to GW’s baseball program. Not only is Wilkie currently a member of the organization, but fellow 2006 grad Dan Pfau also pitched in Washington’s minor league system and 2002 alumnus Mike O’Connor reached the majors for the team in 2006 and 2008, starting 21 of his 26 appearances.
“To be a part of that group is definitely something special,” Lehman said.
Also expected to join the ranks of Washington’s minor leagues is Stephen Strasburg, the draft’s top overall pick. The hard-throwing pitcher’s reputation has grown to mythic proportions during his career at San Diego State.
“I guess it’s exciting to be in the same organization as him,” Lehman said. “It will be cool to play with him someday, but there’s nothing really I can do with his career. I basically just have to focus on mine.”