By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – 2012 was a memorable year for former Tupelo High standout Chris Stratton.
The right-handed pitcher was a consensus All-American and SEC Pitcher of the Year, leading Mississippi State to a conference tournament title. Stratton was later selected in the first round (20th overall) by the San Francisco Giants receiving a $1.85 million signing bonus.
But eight games into his professional career it nearly ended. Stratton was struck in the head by a line drive during batting practice and was hospitalized putting an end to his rookie season.
“Without a doubt, that made me appreciate it more,” Stratton said. “It’s one of those things that you never know. You just have to appreciate it every day. I’m just glad with an injury like that I can still go throughout life and do everything I want to do on a daily basis. God has really blessed me.”
The 6-foot-3, 186-pounder returned to the mound this summer, making 22 starts for Class-A Augusta in the South Atlantic League. Stratton posted a 9-3 record with a 3.27 ERA, 123 strikeouts and 47 walks over 132 innings of work.
Much of the emphasis for Stratton was working to locate his fastball better which occasionally meant maneuvering several innings on off-speed stuff alone. He admits that things are a little different for first round picks in the minor leagues.
“You have more expectations on how you should perform each time,” Stratton said. “People on the opposing team expect you to be on this pedestal and that’s not necessarily the case. I’m just like everybody else trying to have a good season.”
This year was also special for the 23-year old.
On Jan. 5, Stratton married his girlfriend of five years, Martha Kate, and purchased a home together in Starkville. The couple splits their offseason time between their new home and visiting their families in Tupelo.
The only other major purchase Stratton has made was a pick-up truck for his father Lee.
“He deserves way more than a truck,” Stratton said.”He’d never really had anything brand new so I figured that was the least I could do for him.”
Although Stratton was seven hours away in Augusta, he still kept up with the Diamond Dogs this past spring. He watched his former teammates advance to the championship series at the College World Series in what would have been his senior season.
“I kind of felt like I was a part of it,” Stratton said. “I watched as many games as I could. It was just a special thing for them to make a run like that.
“Coach (John) Cohen and coach (Butch) Thompson did a great job preparing them to get there and it was a lot of fun watching it.”