Out of playoff contention, the Nationals traded him to the defending World Series champion Dodgers before the July 30 trade deadline. Scherzer, also a top players’ union representative, has a 0.88 E.R.A. and 72 strikeouts, including nine on Sunday, with his new team. They have won all eight of his starts.
Watching from afar, Cassel, now 41 and an executive with Nasdaq who lives in California, has enjoyed watching Scherzer’s major-league career evolve since that very first strikeout. So have his two sons, who have Scherzer baseball cards. One has a Scherzer jersey.
“It’s just great to see his career progress,” said Cassel, who appeared in 15 games for the Padres and Astros from 2007 to 2008. “I’d seen it early and there’s a lot of good, talented guys that get to play the game, so it’s always fun to watch the ones that make it. That’s been a cool part with Scherzer specifically, just watching him continue to compete and, even with age, continue to get better at his craft.”
Not long ago, Cassel said he got a text message from a friend informing him that old footage of Cassel pitching was on M.L.B. Network. Wondering which game that could possibly be given his brief career, Cassel saw that the channel was airing Scherzer’s major-league debut, and thus he was also on TV.
“I’m Mr. Nobody and here’s a Hall of Famer,” he said. “I take it as a compliment to be associated with him and be on that same field with him. I’m a fan of his and what he’s done with his career and for the game.”
Cassel said he recorded the game and showed it to his children, teaching them the lesson of learning from failure, particularly in a sport full of it. Even now, he laughs about the strikeout versus Scherzer. He clearly isn’t alone.