In the months following an elbow injury that required season-ending Tommy John surgery, Stephen Strasburg has been steadily working to get ready for this coming season.
In between workouts, Strasburg has also had more spare time in his first professional offseason. He received a letter from an 8-year-old(sic) in Mechanicsville, Va., who had also endured a debilitating arm injury. In sloppy handwriting, he told Strasburg he was praying for him and suggested he play video games to pass the time. Recalling the letter, Strasburg laughed.
That young fan is named Michael Warley, who injured the ligaments in his throwing arm while warming up for a Virginia Little League championship game last summer. After suffering the injury, similar to Strasburg's, the preteen began exchanging letters with the pitcher. The Mechanicsville Local wrote a touching story about the exchange. In that story, they describe young Warley reading Strasburg's reply to one of his letters:
Strasburg thanked Michael for his letter but added a personal note. “So many times the mail I get is from people asking for something in return. It was great to finally read a note from a true fan like yourself. You are a tremendous young man and are destined for greatness!
The professional pitcher and the young Virginia boy have traded a letters a few times. Warley has sent notes of encouragement and photographs of his own rehabilitation. In return, the Mechanicsville Local writes, Strasburg has sent letters, an autographed ball, and a jersey.
"Stephen is a class act," Warley's mother, Terrianne Warley, told the Local. "He really is."
This offseason, Strasburg has taken up a number of self-improvement projects. In San Diego, he has taken some college classes in between his workouts. He also drew some attention when he announced plans to quite using smokeless tobacco, after his college coach, Tony Gwynn, was diagnosed with mouth cancer.
"I've made a lot of strides, stopped being so compulsive with it," Strasburg said. "I'm hoping to be clean for spring training." Acknowledging that smokeless tobacco use is wide spread in professional baseball, Strasburg said he did not want to tell other players what to do.
"It's their personal choice," he said. "For me, it's the best decision."