Exclusive: Sterling Sharp makes a sharp turn to finally get to Nats Park!

Sterling Sharp was the likeliest Nationals minor leaguer to be added to the 40-man roster, but it did not happen.

Leading up to the potential Rule-5 players who could be added to 40-man rosters, Sao Magnifico wrote, “If the Nats don’t protect 24-year-old hurler Sterling Sharp, it would qualify as a genuine shock.” He was right, and we were shocked when the Nats did not protect Sharp. For general manager Mike Rizzo, he got it wrong. It happens, and it is usually a numbers squeeze to protect Rule-5 eligible players on a roster that has to be at no more than 40 players. The Marlins wisely scooped up Sharp in the Rule-5 draft at the Winter Meetings over eight months ago clearing a path for Sharp to make the Marlins 2020 opening day roster.

“Definitely when I was with the Nats, I did not think that my first-time pitching at Nats Park would be with a different team,” Sharp told me. “But whatever team gave me that opportunity, obviously I’m gonna take it and run with it.”

This weekend, Sharp will be in the visiting dugout for the Marlins in Nationals Park. It was a circuitous path and maybe the lucky break Sharp needed to be picked by the Marlins, although he has seen former teammates like pitchers Dakota Bacus and Seth Romero make it in their 2020 debuts just like him.

With Sharp growing up in Detroit, it is not a hotbed for turning out Major League players. He made it, and he made it to the team where Derek Jeter is one of the team owners. Both Jeter and Sharp are from Michigan, and Sharp’s mother was in labor when Derek Jeter made his debut. Sterling Sharp was born hours later on May 30, 1995. It is quite the coincidence if you believe in coincidences.

“Growing up we all obviously knew about Derek Jeter,” Sharp said. “I played shortstop when I was little so definitely wanted to be like him playing. I think a lot of people see how cool and ‘suave’ he is and how he carries himself, and I feel I’m kind of in that same mold. So when we first met, it was just cool to meet a guy like him who has accomplished so much in the game and see in person how he carries himself.”

The story on how Sharp got his name had nothing to do with the former All-Pro tight end and TV personality Sterling Sharpe.

“And no (laughing), my parents did not name me after him,” Sharp solved that mystery. “It was between Cameron and Sterling. My dad didn’t like Cameron I guess.”

Soon Sharp will also make his debut as a married man. He has been with Chloe Henderson for eight years and she has been with him through it all, but for now she has to take it all in from the television. While Sterling’s debut was exciting, she didn’t get to watch in-person or even in the same zip code. They’ve been together since high school back in Michigan.

“I watched Sterling’s debut from home…so wishing I could be there with him as we had originally planned,” Chloe told me. “I still wore my Marlins gear from home and a huge smile on my face! I cheered and teared up thinking about the journey he’s been on and watching him from high school to college to the minor leagues to warming up for his MLB debut.”

“My heart was just so happy for him. It was really a culmination of his dream and a reflection of his talent, determination, and intelligence. Sterling is truly the blueprint for hustle and heart! I was so proud of him that night and continue to be inspired by him!”

Chloe is brilliant and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan. She was a speaker at her college graduation, and an inspiration to many. Their combined future is so bright, and while COVID has disrupted their plans, they are making new plans for their wedding.

Sharp is one of seven former-Nats farmhands from the 2016 amateur draft to make it to the Majors. That is more than any other team has produced from that year. Players like Carter Kieboom and Dane Dunning were first round picks that season.  There is Sheldon Neuse from the second round,  Jesus Luzardo,  Daniel JohnsonTres BarreraJake Noll. and Sharp who was picked in the 22nd round out of Drury University.

In the minors in 2019, Sharp led all of Minor League pitching in groundball rates which was a clear result of his two-seam sinkerball. When you analyze the great sinkerballers, they can live over the heart of the plate, but every once in a while, you will face a dynamic hitter like Robinson Cano who took his 89.5 mph sinker over the plate and smashed it for his 327th homer of his career on Monday. It puts Sharp in good company with some of the greatest pitchers in the last three decades like Max Scherzer, Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Curt Schilling, Cole Hamels, and hundreds of others who Cano victimized for home runs.

Speaking of former Yankees like Cano, now Sharp has Don Mattingly as his manager, and as one of the greatest hitters along with Jeter, it helps to get sage advice from former stars.

“Best advice Donnie has given me is that my stuff plays at any level but specifically this level,” Sharp recalled before his debut. “Trust my stuff and just know I belong here and hitting is hard, and I make it even harder for them.”

We have written about Sharp before as he is one of the rare players who was actively involved in charity work before he ever had a sniff of the Majors. Giving back and supporting his community is important to him. He has also been active with the Marlins team in charitable efforts and promoting most recently the 100 year anniversary of the Negro Leagues.

A few things about this sinkerballer, he is a pitch-to-contact pitcher. Some baseball analysts do not like contact pitchers who rely on their defense. That is the life of a sinkerballer. Sharp’s numbers are good so far sans that Cano home run. Overall, he has a 3.60 ERA and a 1.200 WHIP. If you go by FIP, he is at 6.34 and that is fine as he is the guy you want in relief with runners on-base and less than two outs.

Since families were not part of the debut, the Marlins wanted to make sure he had extra mementos from his first game. They presented him with four of his authenticated baseballs from the game from first pitch to first strikeout.

“The 4 balls I got authenticated will be put up on shelves at my dad’s house,” Sharp said. “He’s got some jerseys hung up throughout the house and balls from I think each level me and my brother have played at. So it’s only right to stash them there. But once me and my fiancée get our first for-real home together, I’m gonna have to take 1-2 balls with me to start my own man cave.”

The Nats have this long weekend series with the Marlins starting tomorrow and running through Monday plus the Saturday doubleheader giving these teams five games in four days, and you can be sure that Nats fans will see Sharp on the mound in Nats Park.


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