Kellen Strahm and Justin Herbert: Different routes, same grind for former Sheldon stars
In 2022, Strahm finds himself in Frisco, Texas, slugging it out in Double-A ball against some of baseball’s best prospects.
Kellen Strahm has seen the lavish side of sports.
He and former Sheldon High School football and baseball teammate Justin Herbert are both professional athletes, Strahm a minor leaguer in the Texas Rangers system and Herbert the star quarterback of the Los Angeles Chargers. The 2015 6A Oregon baseball state champions remain close, which inspired a road trip from Los Angeles to Eugene a couple of years ago to celebrate the end of Herbert’s rookie season.
But before they could hit the road, Herbert led Strahm and a few other friends on a detour.
First, they played 18 holes at Pebble Beach. Then, they headed over to Jim Nantz’s house and hit balls onto the broadcaster’s private backyard green. Strahm even has a video of Nantz calling one of his swings.
At least for Strahm, it was far from an ordinary day.
“Justin didn’t have to do that,” Strahm said. “That just shows you his character.”
Strahm’s professional experience has been quite different. Drafted in the fifth round out of San Jose State in 2019, Strahm had a standout debut in the Northwest League, batting .288 with five home runs, 28 RBIs and 13 stolen bases for Spokane. But when the pandemic canceled the 2020 minor league season, Strahm found himself back in Eugene working for his dad’s building material distribution company. In 2021, an oblique injury slowed Strahm during spring training — then a torn labrum ended his season with Single-A Hickory after just 50 games.
“I really honestly haven’t played a ton of games,” Strahm said. “I think this season might be the most games I’ve played in a season. I think this is just the start of something good for me.”
In 2022, Strahm finds himself in Frisco, Texas, slugging it out in Double-A ball against some of baseball’s best prospects. At 25, he’s hitting .273, showing some pop with four home runs and largely succeeding despite being a rain-loving Eugene kid playing ball in 100 degrees with humidity.
It’s a grind, Strahm said. He loves the grind. And that’s where his and Herbert’s experiences begin to overlap again.