Stratton Sees Bright Bulldog Future

Mississippi State baseball has taken huge strides under the direction of Coach John Cohen. Cohen, charged with the Diamond Dog baseball rebuild, went to work early on to improve the talent on the hill with a heavy emphasis on pitchers in the first recruiting classes. One of the first pieces of that puzzle was Tupelo blue chipper Chris Stratton who flourished in the Maroon and White.

Stratton was one of America's top collegiate pitchers in 2012 earning post season honors from most reputable media organizations.

After closing out the SEC tournament championship game, Stratton was selected by the San Francisco Giants with the 20th pick in the 1st round of the 2012 draft.

Now sporting a 7-3 record on the season, Stratton is now a member of the Augusta Greenjackets where he is working his way up the ladder of the Giants' farm system.

"Things are going pretty good for us," said Stratton. "We just started the second half. We just had the All-Star break.

"I have only had one start since then and it went well.

"I am supposed to start again on Sunday, so we'll see how that goes.

"We're going to be in a pretty small ball park, so I have to keep the ball down.

"We're having a pretty good season so far. We had a pretty good first half.

"We were in first place for a little while, but we sort of tailed off towards the end.

"We're getting ready to make a good push now in the second half."

While Stratton has had some success early in his professional career, he admits there was a lot to get used to even after playing in one of baseball's most competitive college leagues, the SEC.

"Using your fast ball is really important here," said Stratton. "When you're in college, you try to get ahead with your fastball and then you try to put them away with your off speed or your breaking ball or something like that.

"You're working for the strikeout more in college.

"Now they are not really concerned as much about strikeouts. They are more about pitch efficiency.

"They want early outs, so I am trying to use my fastball more to get early outs and to get myself deeper into games."

Several of Stratton's college teammates will be joining the ranks of the minor leagues in the coming days.

While the transition is a big one, the former Bulldog hurler reports that it does not take long to settle in to a routine.

"You know it's all new, but it's still the same game we have been playing for a long time," said Stratton. "The main thing you have to get used to is playing every single day.

"That's really the only thing you do now, so you have to make use of your off time.

"College really prepares you well. Besides the classes, you get to play a lot more and things like that.

"I can imagine that it would be really tough to come right out of high school and then have to be off on your own for the first time.

"I think that would be really tough and I think college really prepares you a lot better for that."

In addition to maturing as a person during his college years, Stratton developed into one of the top pitchers in the country.

The Tupelo, Mississippi product is quick to give a lot of credit for his success to Mississippi State pitching coach Butch Thompson.

"I owe everything to him," said Stratton. "I love him like a father. He is a really great man and an excellent baseball coach.

"To be honest with you, he really helped me to just be my own coach.

"He taught me how to critique myself and not to rely on him so much.

"At times, I tried to listen to what everybody else was saying and I tried to do everything, but you just can't do that.

"You just have to do what works for you and what helps you get better.

"He taught me how to that."

Stratton reports that he was cheering for the Diamond Dogs right along with the rest of the Mississippi State family over the course of the last two weeks as the Bulldogs chased a national title.

"I know I didn't play on the team this year, but I was cheering them on just as hard as I could," said Stratton. "All of those guys have put in the hard work and I know they have, because I have been there.

"It's so great to see them earn some reward for all of the work they have put in.

"It was really nice to watch."

When Stratton inked with the Bulldogs, the program was working back through some tough times.

The Bulldogs have trended upwards the past three seasons and Stratton believes the best is yet to come.

"I only see bright things ahead," explained Stratton. "I think Coach (John) Cohen sees how important the atmosphere is around the team.

"I think it's real important especially for the kids coming in. They need to see how much fun the team is having.

"They all want to be a part of that.

"When you make a run in Omaha like that people take notice. The Fear the Beard and Bench Mobb stuff and all of that is something people want to be a part of.

"People see that and they love that."

A year removed from the conclusion of his Bulldog playing career, Stratton is proud to have been part of the turnaround in Starkville.

While he was not part of the group that reached Omaha this summer, Stratton feels a real sense of pride in where Bulldog baseball has risen.

"One of my best memories is winning the SEC tournament," explained Stratton. "Just going out and winning that with all of my buddies and seeing all of that Maroon and White in the stands was just awesome.

"When I signed with Mississippi State, Ole Miss was pre-season #4 in the country and Mississippi State wasn't even on the map.

"Coach Cohen was just getting there then.

"I didn't do it, but it was great to be part of that group with Kendall Graveman, Ben Bracewell and Chad Girodo who helped turn things around.

"Those guys have been there all of those years and worked so hard.

"It just really means a lot to me to have been a part of that group that helped build the program back up."

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