This week Major League Baseball's Washington Nationals gave collegiate pitcher Stephen Strasburg the richest-ever contract for a player selected in the amateur draft.  To mark the occasion, they offered a special promotion to introduce him to the team's fans.

The last-place Washington Nationals offered a few thousand tickets valued up to $30 for only $1 apiece for Friday night's (08/21/09) game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

But what fans also got for that bargain price was a chance to attend the pre-game on-field news conference introducing the Nationals newest team member, highly acclaimed pitcher Stephen Strasburg.

As a junior at San Diego State University this past season, Strasburg won 13 games against only one loss.  He led all Division One college pitchers in earned run average and strikeouts, and he won the Golden Spikes award for the top U.S. amateur baseball player.

But Washington officials will not rush him to his first pitching appearance for the Nationals.  He will first go to the Florida Instructional League and then maybe the Arizona Fall League, another minor league.  They hope - and Strasburg hopes - he can pitch in the 2010 Major League season.

"That's definitely completely up to the organization.  You know, I'm just coming in here and I just want to keep doing what I've been doing at San Diego State, and that's helping a team win a ball game.  And really to start with it doesn't really matter what team I'm on.  You know I like to think of myself as a winning personality.  So that's all I try to do, and hopefully some day I'll be able to do it up here (in the Major Leagues)," he said.

No matter what his timetable, Strasburg is being paid handsomely.  Washington gave him a record amateur contract of $15.1 million dollars for four years.  That's almost $5 million more than the previous high that the Chicago Cubs gave pitcher Mark Prior in 2001.  The last-place Nationals and their fans are hoping the investment will pay off.