Elliot Mast sounded like a seasoned media pro, making Stephen Strasburg feel at ease with some fun questions to lighten the mood.
It had to serve as the experience of a lifetime for Mast, who is not a seasoned media pro. He's an 11-year-old Altoona kid who had an opportunity to rub elbows with about 70 other media members and take part in Strasburg's postgame press conference Sunday at Blair County Ballpark.
"It was pretty fun," Mast said. "It was my first time asking those kind of questions to that kind of guy."
Mast recently joined on as a reporter for the program "Kid Pitch," a baseball show for kids that's also hosted by kids. It airs on Fox Sports Net affiliates around the country, including the local Pittsburgh affiliate.
Near the end of Strasburg's press conference, Mast chimed in with his first question:
"I heard your mom taught you to cook your own burritos when you were in college. What do you put into the perfect burrito?"
The pitcher, who had been bombarded by all sorts of serious questions leading up to that one, seemed to appreciate Mast's light-hearted query.
"The perfect burrito?" he said. "Well, being from southern California, we have California burritos out there, and it's basically a carne asada burrito with French fries in it. I grew up with that, and unfortunately it kind of put a lot of LBs [pounds] on me."
The media contingent got a chuckle out of the answer, which later appeared on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight.'' A Washington Nationals official then looked at Mast and said, "That was so good, you got another one?"
"Uh, sure," Mast said, drawing more laughter.
The tyke asked, "Which were you more excited about, getting your own baseball card or seeing yourself in a video game?"
Strasburg replied, "Um, I haven't seen either. I think it was pretty cool being on a baseball card. I like to play as myself hitting, obviously, in the video games."
"I heard everyone laugh," Mast said, "and I think that was a good thing because he was getting beat with questions, and so I thought I could just make him be a little bit relaxed."
Mast's mother, Angelina, said she's "very proud" of her son for doing such a fine job. She also admitted she was a little surprised.
"He was really, really scared [Saturday] night," she said, "to the point where he said he thought he was going to have a migraine and didn't know if he could do it."
Curve starters sit
Altoona Curve starters Chase d'Arnaud, Matt Hague, Jordy Mercer and Hector Gimenez did not start. d'Arnaud pinch hit for starting pitcher Rudy Owens in the seventh inning and played shortstop for the rest of the game.
"They've played three games in a row, and it's early in the season," Altoona Curve manager Matt Walbeck said. "It's just the way it worked out. Had [Stephen] Strasburg pitched opening night, we would have had them in there. It was a day game after a night game.
"They haven't played four games in a row since last year, and it all came together and that was the lineup that was made. As far as anything tricky going on, not really, no."
Jim Negrych, Shelby Ford, Kris Watt and Jose De Los Santos started in their place. All four are left-handed hitters, but Walbeck said that had nothing to do with a strategy against the right-handed Strasburg.
The four substitutes combined to go 1-for-13 with the lone hit coming on De Los Santos' RBI single off Strasburg in the fourth inning.
"I don't know, to be honest," said d'Arnaud, who faced Strasburg in the Arizona Fall League, when asked whether it was a scheduled day off for him or just strategy to play more left-handers. "It would have been nice to face Strasburg and get some more at bats against him."
Owens gets first pro hit
Owens picked up his first professional hit with an RBI single off Strasburg in the fourth inning. Owens hit a sharp grounder up the middle past Strasburg that plated De Los Santos and gave the Curve a 4-0 lead.
"For my first professional hit it was nice," Owens said. "He's just another pitcher. He's just out there trying to beat me, so I have to try and do my job. I was just trying to get a run on the board and help us out."
Owens' single was one of just four hits the Curve managed off Strasburg.
Harrison has close call
While batting with runners on first and second in the first inning, Josh Harrison got up close and personal with a Strasburg fastball. Harrison tried to move out of the way of a high and inside fastball. He did manage to avoid getting hit, but the ball struck his bat for a foul ball.
"It happened kind of fast," Harrison said. "It was kind of a shock. As soon as it hit the bat, the umpire called it a foul ball right away. I didn't even have a chance to have a reaction.
"It was just one of those things. I've been thrown into before, and it wasn't intentional. It's part of the game, but it's just one of those things where I was fortunate not to get hit."