Over the weekend, I caught up with former Mississippi State pitcher Chris Stratton, one of the three first round picks from MSU after Arnett Moultrie was drafted Thursday night. I talked to him about what that means for him and the university, what draft day was like and what he the first thing he bought was (you’ll be surprised by the answer).
Just like his MSU teammates who are playing summer league baseball, Stratton is off working on the mound himself already. He was back in Mississippi for his brother’s wedding over the weekend, but he’s already back to training now, just after being named MSU’s first consensus All-American since Will Clark. (More on him at the bottom)
Here is the Q and A of our chat.
Bob Carskadon: So, Chris, what have you been up to?
Chris Stratton: After the draft, I sat down with my family and decided the best thing for me to do would be to sign. Not many people get the opportunity that I’ve gotten and I’m just blessed to be in the position I’m in. Went to San Francisco and spent a week out there. My brother is getting married so I’m gonna watch him get married, then head off to Oregon.
BC: Tony Bennett had good things to say about San Francisco. Did you like it out there?
CS: It was awesome. Great food, tons of places eat. I love to eat, even if I don’t look like I eat a lot. They’ve definitely got some good food and the people are awesome. They definitely have one of-a-kind fans. When I was there it was the 118th straight sellout, so they’ve got them coming in.
BC: It has to be exciting to be joining an organization with such a great pitching staff.
CS: Oh, for sure. San Francisco has always been known for having a deep pitching staff and developing players within their system. So, just to be a part of that is a truly a blessing. I kind of wish I had waited one more day to sign I could’ve seen Cain throw a perfect game.
BC: Now that Arnett Moultrie has been drafted, Mississippi State has had a first-rounder in all three major sports. What does it mean to you and what do you think it means to the university?
CS: Oh, it means a ton to me. Just growing up a State fan and coming to all the football games, just being near the university, it just means a lot that I could be a part of it and hopefully help it out, help other kids come in. I know Fletcher’s from Yazoo City, so the fact he’s a Mississippi boy, too. I don’t know if he grew up a State fan. From my standpoint, just being able to help Mississippi State out as much as they’ve helped me is a blessing.
BC: You’re someone who has played all across the country. Are these draft picks something that can enhance MSU’s national brand and perception?
CS: Yes, for sure. I guess we’re kind of known as a traditional school with baseball. We’ve got a great tradition of baseball. We really need to get back on top of things and compete in the SEC every year, and I really feel like we’ve done that with the super regional, and then winning the SEC Tournament this past year. It really kind of put us on the map and let other teams know that we’re here to stay. Hopefully kids that are sitting at home and able to play baseball in college in the SEC are considering us.
I went undrafted out of high school and came out a first-rounder, so that has to say something about the development of what you can have at Mississippi State. The coaches on our staff are just outstanding.
BC: There are several similarities between you, Moultrie and Cox, all being juniors who garnered national headlines and really jumped on the scene, and then you were all able to realize your dream of playing professionally.
CS: Exactly. Playing sports, you want to play as long as you possibly can. You don’t want to stop at college and just knowing that if you do come to Mississippi State, you have the opportunity to leave after your junior year or after your senior year and go on and try professional sports. I’m just really happy to be a part of it.
BC: Do any of you three know each other from around campus?
CS: I haven’t been able to talk to Arnett. But Fletcher, me and him had a class together freshman year. I kinda got to know him then and we’ve been buddies ever since. I called and congratulated him after he got drafted and he did the same for me. He’d always pass me by and say, “Hey, you’re gonna be making the big bucks one day,” and I’d say, “No, you are.” Just the fact that you’ve got people like that, that the football team and baseball team can communicate with each other, we’ve got that tight-knit of a – the sports, that’s just awesome.
BC: What was the first thing you bought when you signed that big contract?
CS: To be honest with you, I have everything I need. I really don’t need to spend my money on anything, so I guess it’s gonna go in the bank. My family, if they need anything, I’ll be there to help them. But like I said, I really don’t need anything. I already have everything and I’m blessed to be in the position I’m in.
BC: Baseball America had some pretty high praise for next year’s team recently. Do you see that World Series potential for next year’s team?
CS: I really do. Just the mindset of the players we have on the team. We’re this close to just breaking it open and competing in the World Series. Just the pitching staff we have and the development of our position players, we really have a chance. I wish I could have stayed and been a part of it. I just think the decision to go pro was the best decision for me and my family and my career.
BC: What was draft day like for you? Were you scared, excited, nervous, anxious, curious?
CS: Yeah, pretty much all of those things. Real anxious and ready to see what the next step is. You kind of have the teams you think might take you. But to be honest, I’d only talked to San Francisco one time and that was right after I pitched in the SEC Tournament. You really can’t tell where you’re gonna go. I’d heard as high as five, or as low as 32. I was just kind of hoping another Chris wouldn’t get taken in the first round because then we’d hear the name Chris and get all excited, and when they said someone else’s last name it would have been pretty devastating.
They called me and I told them I accept and everything and they said, “Well, we’re about to announce your name, so try not to get too loud.” As soon as they said that, they announced it on TV and everyone went ballistic. So I didn’t really have time to get that in. It was just a great feeling.
Will Clark actually called to congratulate me, so just the fact that another Mississippi State player would take the time to do that really means a lot.