Washington D.C. is a long way away from Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High in Spring Hill, but the results July 29 at Nationals Park looked a lot like many of those at the Hurricanes’ baseball field not too long ago.
Nate Pearson, a 2015 graduate of Bishop McLaughlin, made his Major League Baseball debut last week as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. The 6-foot-6, right-handed flame thrower introduced himself to the league against the Washington Nationals, opposite three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. The Wednesday evening game held a little extra significance, as well, because it was the Blue Jays’ first “home game” as a home-less organization. Since the Canadian government will not allow the team to welcome road teams to the Rogers Centre in Toronto this season, the Blue Jays are currently playing its home games on the road.
If there were any nerves or butterflies affecting Pearson, it was hard to tell. The 23-year-old, wearing the home whites and the same No. 24 he sported at Bishop McLaughlin, dazzled for five scoreless innings. Pearson struck out the first batter he faced, Nationals shortstop Trea Turner, with a breaking ball, and went on to fan five while scattering two hits and two walks before giving way to the bullpen.
Neither Pearson nor Scherzer factored in the decision. Scherzer tossed 7 1/3 scoreless innings and the game remained 0-0 heading into extra innings before Washington put up four runs in the 10th to win it, 4-0.
“My stuff plays here and I belong here,” Pearson said, according to reporter Keegan Matheson’s game recap posted on the Blue Jays’ official website. “I’ll just carry that confidence that I had today into my next outing and my outings in years to come. I know my stuff plays, and that’s all I’m focused on.”
Toronto drafted Pearson No. 28 overall in the 2017 draft out of the College of Central Florida in Ocala. With Bishop McLaughlin, Pearson helped lead the Class 3A Hurricanes to their first-ever state final four as a senior in 2015.
Fast-forward about five years, and he’s now the second active-roster member of the Blue Jays with Tampa Bay roots. Shortstop Bo Bichette (Lakewood High) debuted for Toronto as a 21-year-old last season and managed to hit .311 with 11 home runs in 196 at bats.
Pearson spent three seasons in the minor leagues, though the his 2018 was limited to 1 2/3 innings when he was struck in the pitching arm by a line drive as a member of the Class A Dunedin Blue Jays. Pearson logged 123 1/3 innings over 34 minor-league appearances (all starts), producing a 2.19 ERA while striking out 146 and limiting batters to a .173 batting average. Those numbers, along with a fastball that can get into the low 100s, made Pearson the Blue Jays’ top prospect and got him ranked as the No. 8 prospect in all of baseball.
As of July 29, Pearson was to make his next start against the Atlanta Braves at 7:10 p.m., Aug. 4.