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Kyle Stratton slides atop all-time list, a day made even more special by Whitehall great

Former MLB All-Star Nate McLouth reaches out after Stratton breaks his MHSAA career stolen base record.

SCOTTVILLE — Prior to Kyle Stratton’s record-breaking moment in Whitehall’s baseball doubleheader Thursday at Mason County Central, teammate Ryne Christensen playfully stated that he was going to steal Stratton’s thunder.

Christensen called his shot. He bats second in the Vikings’ lineup behind leadoff man Stratton, and he quipped near the batting cage during pregame something to the effect, “I’m going to hit a home run so (Stratton) can’t get any more stolen bases.”

Christensen did just that, although he waited until after his buddy’s sprint to history.

In the first inning of the first game Thursday, Stratton reached base on a misplay of a pop-up on the edge of the infield. Moments later, Stratton took off for second base. With a feet-first slide through the dusty infield, he successfully recorded the 181st steal of his four-year varsity career.

Stratton now sits atop the Michigan High School Athletic Association record books, moving past Whitehall legend and former Major League Baseball All-Star Nate McLouth, who swiped 180 bases during his indelible career spanning 1997-2000.

“It feels pretty cool. I’ve been chasing it for a while,” Stratton said. “(Coach Warren) Zweigle has helped me out a lot — talking about it, setting goals, and getting to achieve it, so it feels pretty cool.”

The story got even cooler once Stratton grabbed his phone after Whitehall completed the West Michigan Conference nondivisional sweep of Mason County Central, 6-5 and 13-5.

He saw a congratulatory video sent to him by none other than McLouth, who played 10 MLB seasons, highlighted by his 2008 season with the Pittsburgh Pirates when he was named a National League All-Star, led the league with 46 doubles, and won a Golden Glove for his work in the outfield.

McLouth led Whitehall to a Division 2 state runner-up finish during his sophomore year in 1998 and he was named Michigan’s co-Mr. Baseball as a senior in 2000.

“This video speaks volumes about Nate and how humble and passionate he is about the game of baseball,” said Zweigle, a Hall of Famer, who coached McLouth & Co. during a magical time of Whitehall baseball.

“When I first called Nate to tell him about his record being broken, he didn’t hesitate to offer up a congratulatory video for Kyle. Just another example of why baseball is the greatest game in the world.”

During the McLouth era of Whitehall baseball, the Vikings tore apart the MHSAA record books with their home run power. Whitehall’s 1999 team still owns the state’s record for home runs in a season with 76, including 16 by McLouth that year.

McLouth was a three-sport standout during his Whitehall days, also excelling as a quarterback in football and guard in basketball — just like the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Stratton.

Safe to say, Stratton was on Cloud Nine when he heared from McLouth, who now resides in Knoxville, Tenn.

“Zweigle hinted at maybe something coming if I broke it,” Stratton said. “After the game, I got on my phone and saw it and it was sweet — smiled all the way through it.

“I’ve always wanted to get to meet him, but I never had the chance, so it was cool being in contact with such a successful guy and super cool of him to reach out to me.”

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

Stratton stole six bases in Thursday’s doubleheader, giving him 59 on the season and 186 in his career. Next, he’ll give chase to Cayden Ritchie’s Whitehall single-season stolen base record of 72, set during the 2021 season.

Stratton, who plays shortstop, catches, and pitches, is batting .409 on the season (36-of-88) with 20 walks for a .518 on-base percentage to go along with nine doubles, 47 runs scored, and 19 RBIs.

“This is such a great accomplishment for Kyle,” Zweigle said about the career stolen base record. “This has been on Kyle’s radar for the past couple years and he has worked incredibly hard at obtaining this goal. Something like this doiesn’t happen by accident. Doing all the things necessary to obtain a record like this was definitely intentional. I couldn’t be more proud for Kyle.”

Whitehall senior Kyle Stratton (Courtney Jimison | CatchMark)

Whitehall senior Ryne Christensen (Courtney Jimison | CatchMark)

Christensen, who is enjoying a special season in his own right, was equally happy for Stratton.

Christensen’s first-inning blast to center field in Game 1 Thursday prevented Stratton from stealing third base, but Stratton was just fine with it.

“I was about to (steal) third,” Stratton said with a grin. “Nah, I’m super happy for him. I mean, he’s been waiting a long time and he pieced that ball. Dead center.”

Christensen, a senior pitcher and infielder, is having a big season. At the plate, he’s batting .471 (41-of-87) with a .573 on-base percentage, nine doubles, two triples, one home run, 23 RBIs, 31 runs scored, 19 walks, and 32 stolen bases.

On the mound, the right-hander sports a 6-1 record with one save and a 1.36 ERA. He has 59 strikeouts and 15 walks in 46 innings.

Thursday’s homer was Christensen’s first in his high school career. To him, it felt good to get in the act with Stratton, so to speak, and Stratton was happy to share the limelight.

“It felt good off the bat,” Christensen said. “It’s kind of funny, being able to (call his shot before the game). I mean, I feel like we say stupid stuff before the game all the time. For it to actually happen is kind of funny.”

In his video, McLouth said he saw Stratton play football a couple times and stated that he may be the best athlete to come out of Whitehall.

McLouth may not get an argument from Christensen.

“It’s insane. Kyle’s a heck of an athlete,” Christensen said. “Seeing him (break McLouth’s record), I was with him when he got his first stolen base. Seeing him get that record-breaking stolen base was pretty special.”


Whitehall legend Nate McLouth shouts out Whitehall senior Kyle Stratton for breaking his Michigan high school career stolen base record. Great gesture, Nate! #fyp #csn #catchmarksportsnet #mhsaa #whitehall #baseball #mlb #stolenbases #record

♬ “Take Me Out To The Baseball” Rock Guitar(1380852) – Canal Records JP

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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