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North Dakota's Matt Strahm making big splash in big leagues

FARGO--Facing a legendary slugger in a historic ballpark is one of the moments that stand out for Kansas City Royals pitcher Matt Strahm in his brief time in Major League Baseball.

Aug 23, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Matt Strahm (64) throws during the seventh inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 23, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Matt Strahm (64) throws during the seventh inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

FARGO-Facing a legendary slugger in a historic ballpark is one of the moments that stand out for Kansas City Royals pitcher Matt Strahm in his brief time in Major League Baseball.

"I get chills talking about it right now," said Strahm, a West Fargo High School graduate.

In late August, Strahm came out of the bullpen to face Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz at Fenway Park.

"That was very, very ... words can't explain that," Strahm said. "That was awesome."

The 24-year-old Strahm got Ortiz to ground into an inning-ending double play and went on to earn the win. Since making his MLB debut July 31 with the Royals, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound left-hander has been impressive. He has a 2-1 record with a 1.37 ERA in 19 appearances. Strahm has allowed three earned runs in 19.2 innings, striking out 27 batters.

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"This game is a game of streaks," Strahm said. "You've got to ride them while they're hot and figure out how to fix them when they're cold."

The defending World Series champion Royals (79-77) have a slim mathematical chance to earn a wild card spot with six games remaining in their regular season. Kansas City hosts the Minnesota Twins at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, at Kauffman Stadium.

"When he goes in, it is still surreal that he's actually there," said Linda Strahm, Matt's mother. "It just leaves us speechless."

Strahm grew up a Twins fan, so playing at Target Field earlier this season was memorable. Strahm, who watched the Twins play in the Metrodome as a youngster, hadn't been to Target Field until this summer.

"My first time being at Target Field was actually playing at Target Field so that was kind of cool," Matt said.

Strahm has maintained the same routine he had while in the minor leagues. He credits the Royals organization and its player development for getting him prepared for the major-league level.

That has helped Strahm keep his cool when he enters the game in tense, late-inning situations.

"The awe factor probably comes in an hour or so after the game when I realize what I've done," Strahm said. "I'm playing a kids' game. I've still got those little-kid moments where it's like 'Wow, that was Joe Mauer I just pitched against him in the seventh inning.' It's cool, but at the same time, it's my job."

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Strahm took nearly two years off, undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013. He pitched 19.1 innings in 2014 before a strong 2015 season started his fast rise through the Royals organization.

Strahm started this season with Class Double-A Northwest Arkansas in the Texas League.

"I feel like it was a week ago I was packing my bag up in Northwest Arkansas to come up here," Strahm said. "It's flying by."

After his one outing in July, Matt didn't allow a run in August, pitching 15.1 innings. He struck out 20 batters and walked four, making 11 appearances in August, posting a 2-0 record.

"To have him do what he's been doing has just been unbelievable," said Tim Strahm, Matt's father. "It's just been awesome."

Matt said his entire family is a "baseball family." He talks to his parents after most games. Ben Strahm, Matt's brother, plays baseball for Cowley Community College in Arkansas City, Kan. His older sister, Britta, is the best baseball sister ever, Linda said.

"We've done baseball every weekend possible since I was probably 8," Matt said.

Tim and Linda are able to watch every Royals game, subscribing to MLB.TV. Linda said they also had MiLB.TV to watch Matt in the minor leagues. They've been to nine games in person since Matt joined Kansas City.

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However, Matt has only got into one game that his parents have attended in person.

"Every time he gets on the mound my stomach turns and that's just the way it is," Tim said. "The kid's got the mentality to be a pitcher at that level."

Matt has looked up to all the North Dakota players who have made to the big leagues, Linda said. Former major leaguer Darin Erstad, from Jamestown, N.D., is on the light-switch plate in Matt's old bedroom.

"It's a dream come true," Linda said. "He's dreamt about this since he was little."

Related Topics: WEST FARGOBASEBALL
Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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