"I've got to step away and focus on my health," Stratton said, after addressing the team with his decision on Tuesday. "This team and this program obviously is very special to me ... I love these guys, and I'll be around to support them this season in any way I can. But right now, I've got to continue to pour my efforts and energy into my rehabilitation and getting my health back to where it needs to be."
Stratton, 57, is the only coach in the program's six-year history, compiling a 175-134 record - and without a losing season. His Panthers made national news in their inaugural 2007 season, winning the Great Lakes Valley Conference championship and earning a berth in the NCAA-II Tournament. Drury has made the GLVC's post-season tournament field four times in six years, including each of the past three seasons.
And all the while, Stratton's Panther squads have been a shining example of Drury's commitment to student-athlete excellence, with DU Baseball traditionally finishing in the top two or three among the campus male athletic squads in grade-point average. His 2012 group, despite having 45-plus players on the roster, led the university in that regard with a 3.4 gpa last season and was the only baseball team in the GLVC to earn one of the league's academic honors awards.
"Mark Stratton is a shining example of the type of hard work and selfless commitment that we value in our athletic program at Drury," said Matt Miller, DU's Executive Director of Athletics Administration. "He has built an admirable and respected program from the ground up. The success DU Baseball has enjoyed, both in the classroom and on the field, has Mark Stratton's fingerprints all over it.
"Coach Stratton should take great pride in the legacy of success he's built as he takes a step back from the program to focus on his recovery."
"Coach Stratton has given me tremendous responsibility over the last six seasons, which has prepared me to take over from where he's leaving off," Nasby said. "I don't see us taking any steps back, but only continuing forward. We're returning most of our pitching staff and starting lineup, as well as 13 seniors who've grown to love Coach Stratton and know this won't be any additional responsbility that they cannot handle."
The Panthers, who finished 29-22 last season, will open the 2013 campaign in Memphis, Tenn. on Feb. 16-17 when they visit Christian Brothers University for a three-game set. Drury will open its home slate the following weekend against Saint Joseph's in a non-league series at Meador Park (Feb. 23-24).