Mustache Man: Clemson's Spencer Stride channels his inner Catfish Hunter


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Strider, and his mustache, on the mound Saturday
Strider, and his mustache, on the mound Saturday

CLEMSON - Spencer Strider understands baseball history, and he knows some of the best facial hair in the game have belonged to pitchers. It’s a tradition he wants to follow.

Strider is a freshman pitcher on the Clemson baseball team who saw his first action of the season in Saturdays 7-6 win over William & Mary. Strider, out of Christian Academy of Knoxville in Tennessee, earned the win in his first career appearance. He gave up two hits, four runs, and one walk with seven strikeouts in three innings pitched in relief.

Strider was listed as the No. 28 freshman in the nation in the preseason by Perfect Game, the No. 3 freshman in the ACC in the preseason by Baseball America, the No. 5 freshman in the ACC in the preseason by Perfect Game, the No. 26 freshman in the ACC in the preseason by D1Baseball and the No. 7 ACC prospect for the 2020 draft in the preseason by Perfect Game.

Mixing in a mesmerizing changeup with his mid-90’s fastball, Strider has all the tools to be a standout starter on the collegiate level, and it’s one of the reasons he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians last June. Strider might wind up in the starting rotation sooner rather than later, but for now is happy to pick up a win.

“It was great to get the win. My teammates picked me up. I had a feeling I would pitch today, so I was ready,” Strider told TigerNet. “I struggled a little bit there in the first and last innings, but overall I felt like I did pretty well. It was great. It is something you've worked toward for months and it means a lot. We've gone through a lot with training and the Omaha Challenge and to see it pay off is a good feeling. To come out here and get the love from the crowd was great.”

He said he will do whatever it takes to help his team win, but feels like he could thrive in a starting role.

“You always want to play on the biggest venue and stage that you can. When the game is the most important and it's the biggest time and everybody is watching, that is when you want to be in,” Strider said. “I am competitive like that so I want to be out there on the mound. I am ready for any role, but I know I am a freshman and I know I need experience. I am ready for whatever and I am looking for a good season.”

How did he wind up at Clemson?

“I was committed out of my junior year to Ohio University, that is where my mother went. She is from Ohio and we had some connections there,” Strider said. “I de-committed and contemplated a bigger program. I wasn't really familiar with Clemson, living in Tennessee the SEC was what I knew. I came here and stayed with one of my buddies who goes here now during a travel ball series during the summer. I threw a game and did pretty well and got a call from Monte. This was the first place I visited and I knew then that I wanted to come here.”

During his first appearance, however, it was his mustache that drew as many comments on social media as his pitching. The reviews ranged from bad to good, but he said he takes it all in stride.

“I have heard nothing but positive feedback going into the game, so it was good to see some positive feedback on Twitter,” Strider said with a laugh. “I've been dogged a little bit for it. It's something I do pretty much every year since I've been able to grow one. I channel Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers.”

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