Wild Thing! Strider switches to No. 99

January 21st, 2023

ATLANTA -- Now that has changed his jersey number to No. 99, he could further excite Braves fans by choosing “Wild Thing” to be the song that plays before each of his home starts next year.

As Strider strolled into Truist Park’s press conference room on Saturday, there was a noticeable difference. Gone was the No. 65 jersey he had used during last year’s great rookie season. One of his primary reasons for switching to No. 99 was to pay homage to one of his favorite fictional baseball characters.

“My favorite movie is Major League and I like Rick Vaughn,” Strider said of the beloved character played by Charlie Sheen in the 1989 film. “I see some similarities between Wild Thing and myself.”

Vaughn was a hard-throwing pitcher who wore No. 99 and became affectionately known as Wild Thing by Cleveland fans. Once he became a fan favorite, “Wild Thing” blared throughout the stadium when he entered games.

Strider didn’t experience the same growing pains as Vaughn. He posted a 2.67 ERA and recorded more than 200 strikeouts, despite making just 20 starts. This led fellow Atlanta right-hander Kyle Wright to make a lofty prediction on Saturday.

“Strider might have 400 strikeouts this year, starting from the very beginning,” Wright said.

Strider has made an incredible ascent since the Braves took him out of Clemson in the fourth round of the 2020 MLB Draft. His search for the right jersey number actually began in college.

Strider wore No. 28 during his high school years, but that wasn’t available at Clemson because it was previously worn by Seth Beer, whom Strider considers to be “probably the best college baseball player of all time.”

So, Strider wore No. 29 for the Tigers. Given John Smoltz had worn that number during his Hall of Fame career, that number wasn’t available once Strider reached Atlanta. Nor was No. 28. That became Matt Olson’s number when he was acquired last year. So Strider settled for No. 65 last year and then switched to No. 99 for the upcoming season.

Asked whether he actually chose the jersey number because it matched his average velocity, the quick-witted Strider responded, “That had nothing to do with it. I think my average velocity was 98.2 [mph], so that wouldn’t be completely accurate.”