WORCESTER — When certified financial planner Drew Stratton sits down with potential clients, once in a while he’s asked if he’s the guy who starred in baseball for Quabbin Regional and Princeton University in the 1980s.
“Yeah, it happens,” the 54-year-old Stratton admitted while sitting in his Larson, Potter, Stratton & Cote Financial office on Grove Street last week.
Stratton has been a certified financial planner for 25 years and manages roughly $200 million for his 600-700 clients.
“I’ve retired probably 100 couples,” he said. “I’ve put probably 200 kids through college. There’s nothing more rewarding that getting an invitation to a retirement party or a kid’s college graduation party, which I get lots of.”
Financial planning has replaced baseball in keeping his competitive juices flowing.
Stratton grew up in Barre and was a three-time T&G All-Star in baseball at Quabbin Regional.
As an eighth-grader, he started at second base for the varsity and teamed with his brother Glenn, a senior, who played shortstop and center field. As a switch-hitting senior in 1983, Stratton hit a school-record .507 and no-hit Narragansett. In 2009, he was inducted into the Quabbin Hall of Fame.
Stratton, who shaves his head, but sports a mustache and goatee, laughs easily, especially at himself. He chuckled while he told a story about having his ego bruised when exchanging lineups at home plate before a game his senior year with Ware High star Billy Jo Robidoux, who went on to play in the majors for the Brewers, White Sox and Red Sox.
Robidoux asked Stratton what he was hitting and Stratton replied around .500. Stratton asked Robidoux what he was hitting and he answered about .680.
As a senior, Stratton was selected as a third-team high school All-American and that summer he played for the USA National High School team in Taiwan.
The summer after Stratton’s junior year of high school, a scout came to watch Ron LaPrade of Spencer pitch against Stratton’s Barre Post 2 American Legion team. Stratton hit two home runs off him.
After the game, a man strolled through the stands asking for the father of the player wearing No. 7. Stratton’s father, Glenn Sr., said it was him. Then the man asked what No. 7 had scored on his SATs. The man turned out to be the Princeton coach Tom O’Connell. Stratton had done well on his SATs and ended up accompanying LaPrade to Princeton, even though he admitted the college hadn’t been on his radar.
His father, who headed the history department at Quabbin, and his mother, Jackie, a nurse at UMass Memorial Hospital, convinced him to go to Princeton for the education even though Ivy League schools don’t award athletic scholarships.
“I thank my parents every day for making me go to Princeton,” he said. “I wouldn’t have made that choice on my own. I wasn’t mature enough to make it. They knew the type of connections I would make there.”
Stratton majored in economics and made the best of his Princeton education. He credits his competitive nature and being around other competitive people with helping him succeed as a financial planner. He’s also a competitive golfer at Worcester Country Club and Tatnuck Country Club.
Princeton relies on alumni to help interview every applicant each year. Stratton has interviewed 175 students over the past decade and none of them have been admitted to Princeton. That’s how difficult it is to get into Princeton, which receives more than 40,000 applicants for 1,250 openings.
Stratton earned straight A’s at Quabbin, but so do most Princeton applicants. As Stratton put it, you need to be a Mozart in something to be admitted and he credits his baseball ability with making him stand out.
In 1985, Stratton drove in 53 runs, which is still a Princeton record, and he hit 11 homers, breaking his own school of the previous year by three. He’s now tied for second in school history in single-season home runs with Worcester native Tim Lahey.
Stratton played for Yarmouth-Dennis in the Cape Cod League for two summers and for the USA National team for one. His USA National roommate was Matt Williams, a sophomore at UNLV who would go one to play 17 years in the majors with the Giants, Indians and Diamondbacks and manage the Nationals for two years.
Stratton remembers Williams asking him if he was a power hitter and Stratton telling him he had set the school record at Princeton that spring with 11 home runs. Stratton felt proud of himself until Williams told him he had hit 43 homers for UNLV.
Stratton can always tell people that he beat out Bo Jackson for one of the four outfield spots on that USA National team. Jackson was the first alternate.
“That’s my claim to fame,” Stratton said. “I still have the program, but my kids are too young to appreciate who Bo Jackson is.”
They don’t know Bo, who starred in the NFL and MLB until injuring his hip in 1990.
The Oakland A’s drafted Stratton in the eighth round and Worcester native J.P. Ricciardi signed him to a contract after his junior year.
In three years of Class A ball in Oakland’s farm system, Stratton hit .229 in 267 games with 14 home runs and 113 runs batted. After his first season in the minors, he returned to Princeton for his senior year to earn his degree and missed spring training. That decision didn’t help his prospects at the plate, but he has no regrets.
While he realizes the competition was tougher, looking back, he wonders if his eyesight was beginning to weaken when he played in the minors. Within a year after he gave up baseball, he began wearing eye glasses.
While his friends from Princeton were earning six-figure salaries in the 1980s, the long bus rides and low pay of minor-league baseball got to him. Stratton admitted he wasn’t as motivated to keep playing baseball as he could have been.
Stratton said he didn’t take steroids, but he estimated 30-40 percent of his teammates did, including 60-70 percent of those who reached the majors.
“I was not interested at all,” he said. “If I was going to get there, I was going to get there on my own merits.”
Stratton said he believes he’s led a charmed life, but last December he had his cancerous prostate removed.
“When someone tells you that you have cancer,” he said, “it’s like getting your stomach punched. It takes the wind out of you.”
The recovery was ugly, but he’s doing well now.
Stratton met his wife, Stephanie, when they both worked for IBM in Princeton, New Jersey. They live in Paxton where they raised their three sons, Sam, 23; Pete, 21; and Charlie, 18. He coached all three in the Paxton Little League and AAU.
Sam is training in New Hampshire to become an electrical lineman. Pete is a senior at Westfield State majoring in criminal justice and planning to become a police officer. Charlie is a freshman at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass-Amherst.
“He’s going to take over this business of mine someday,” Stratton said of Charlie. “That’s the plan.”
—Contact Bill Doyle at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BillDoyle15.