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Former West Hills High School and San Diego State University star Stephen Strasburg will start Thursday, facing the team he idolized growing up. While Strasburg pitched in Petco Park once while at SDSU, this will be his first time doing so as a professional playing for the Washington Nationals as they face the Padres Thursday evening.

At West Hills in Santee, Strasburg didn’t pitch particularly well until his senior year, when he received some attention from professional scouts. But he went undrafted, largely due to a combination of being overweight and in poor physical shape, and lacking the emotional maturity for minor league ball.

At SDSU, Strasburg began dubiously, not considered to be good college baseball material, but improved and got himself into shape. By the end of his freshman year, he had become the team’s closer, and earned an opportunity to be a starter the next season.

By the time his junior year rolled around, Strasburg had become one of the most exciting college baseball players in the nation. He was drafted in the 2009 draft by the Washington Nationals with the first overall selection.

Strasburg didn’t spend much time in the minors, and in less than a year made his big league debut in June of 2010. Two and a half months later, he was hurt and ultimately underwent Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament.

After a year of rehabilitation, Strasburg was back with the Nationals briefly in 2011, and then saw success in 2012, going 15-6 in a season that saw him ultimately shut down due to team officials wishing to take precaution after Stephen was out for a year. This year, Strasburg is 1-5, but has lacked run support, sporting an earned run average of 3.10.

Some San Diego fans might be torn, wishing for the Padres to win but also wanting to see their hometown boy do well. Manager Buddy Black isn’t confused as to where his allegiances lie.

“I have a soft spot for former Aztecs, but tonight will not be one of those nights,” Black said before the game.

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