By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
This year’s World Series was more fun than usual for former Mississippi State University baseball standout Chris Stratton.
The Tupelo native, who was a first-round draft pick by the San Francisco Giants last June, watched with interest as his new franchise won its second title in the last three years.
“It was definitely a lot different,” the right-handed pitcher said. “In the past, I’d just be watching to watch baseball. Now I was actually rooting for a team.”
Although Stratton said he followed the Braves and the Cardinals some while he was growing up, he said he’s never had a true favorite team.
“My dad was a basketball coach, so I was mostly in the gym,” he said. “It was good to have someone to cheer for. It made it more interesting and fun.”
Stratton watched the World Series from Northeast Mississippi, where he has returned for the off-season. He recently bought a house in Starkville and also will spend time in Tupelo visiting his family and high school friends.
The right-hander pitched eight games for the Giants’ rookie league team in Salem-Keizer, Ore., last fall before he was struck in the head by a ball during batting practice, an incident that caused him to be hospitalized and ended his season prematurely.
Stratton said he has no ill effects from it and that it actually came at a time when the Giants were about to shut him down for the season anyway since he had thrown so many innings that spring, his junior year at MSU.
It was a collegiate season that saw him log an 11-2 record with a 2.38 ERA with 127 strikeouts and 25 walks in 1092⁄3 innings.
During his brief minor league stint, he struck out 16 more and had a 2.76 ERA in 161⁄3 innings. He’s currently ranked San Francisco’s third overall prospect, according to the team’s official website, sfgiants.com.
When he signed with the Giants, they told him he would probably start the 2013 season in either low- or high-Class A, either Augusta, Ga., or San Jose, Calif. However, he doesn’t know for certain where he will be.
“You go to spring training to try to make it to the highest team I possibly can,” he said.
He’ll spend that offseason working on MSU’s campus with former college teammates Nick Routt and Connor Powers. Most of his work will involve running and lifting weights. He doesn’t plan to pick up a baseball to throw until after Christmas.
“The offseason is a time to get your feet back under you and get some rest,” he said.
In January, he’ll also marry his high school sweetheart, Martha Kate Buskirk of Tupelo, who is studying educational psychology at MSU. The two have dated for nearly five years, since Stratton was a high school junior and Buskirk was a freshman.
While he watched the Giants’ in the World Series, he saw an organization that rode a stellar pitching staff to a championship, just as it had done two years ago. That can be both exciting and daunting to a young arm trying to earn a spot in that talented group.
“They have an extremely young pitching staff,” he said. “Just being in an organization where they develop pitchers like they have makes you feel better. You know you are in the best hands to make it to the big leagues.”