Chris Stratton found himself in a familiar position Friday afternoon.
The Tupelo native was standing on the mound at Dudy Noble Field to throw a pitch.
With his career with the Mississippi State Bulldogs complete, one toss was all he got Friday as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the series opener against University of Portland.
"It's a different feeling," Stratton said about not being a part of the MSU team this season. "I'm definitely going to miss it. I love these guys.
I wish the best for them."
Stratton's focus will remain with baseball in the San Francisco Giants organization as he reports to Scottsdale, Ariz., in one week for spring training.
The Giants took Stratton in the first round of last year's draft with the 20th overall pick.
In his first year of minor league action, Stratton pitched in six games with five starts for Class A Salem-Keizer. He had a 2.76 earned run average with 16 strikeouts and 10 walks in 16 1/2 innings pitched.
There was a scary moment that ended his first season in professional baseball. He was struck in the head by a line drive in batting practice last August and suffered a concussion.
"It was a freak accident, but it couldn't have happened at a better time if it had to happen," Stratton said.
Stratton said his time in the minors was definitely an adjustment from college baseball.
"It's the down time," Stratton said of the difference between college and the minors. "Everybody gets in late from the games, but you wake up at noon the next day, go grab lunch, then another game starts. It's a daily grind and you've got to get used to that."
Stratton was the Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year while leading the Bulldogs to a 40-24 record last year. He finished with an 11-2 record, 2.38 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 2012.
The time at MSU and the SEC has prepared Stratton for the future in baseball.
"If I would have just come out of high school, there's no way I'd be where I am right now," Stratton said.
"It's the mindset of facing these hitters day-in and day-out and getting to learn from the pitchers on the staff. Sometimes I wished I could have one more year, but it was time to move on."
As he gets ready for another season in baseball, Stratton said the key is keeping the mindset that it's just a game.
"As long as you make it a game and not a job, it's a lot of fun," Stratton said. "I'm blessed to be in the position I'm in and I'm looking forward to getting this next season started. I just want to compete, beat the other pitcher on the mound, be all I can be and hopefully keep moving up."
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