Written By Dave Norman
Turks Play-by-Play Announcer
At the intersection of talent and perseverance is where you will find former Turk catcher Erik Kratz. Kratz is in the big leagues now with Kansas City,but like most professional athletes, his journey has been full of curveballs and detours.
The Telford, PA native and Eastern Mennonite University alum has been with a whopping 15 different professional teams (4 MLB Organizations) since 2002. With just 2 errors in 147 MLB games, Erik’s calling card has always been his defense.
Catching is always key component in bringing out the best in pitchers. Erik has caught some of the best in the majors since 2009. Cole Hamels, Roy Halliday, Cliff Lee, Johnathan Papelbon and James Shields just to name a few.
The Royals nearly pulled off one of the most surprising World Series wins last year, falling in Game 7 to the San Francisco Giants. Erik was on the World Series team but did not see action. The Royals have their American League Champions rings and are off to a great start aiming for another playoff run.
“This is a great group of guys. We really came together.” The Royals are a team with possibly the best bullpen in baseball in an era of historically great bullpens. Starting catcher Salvador Perez and Erik are critical to the scouting and game planning to maximize the teams quality pitching. “Sal is about as good as it gets.” Kratz says.
At 35, Erik says that the keys to being ready are his preparation and watching what he eats. ”You get older every year and the new guys are young and there to take your job.”
The most important component in Erik’s relentless grind has been the support of his family and faith. “Through getting released or changing organizations, my wife and family, we have just always hoped that God would keep doors open and keep providing chances.”
Having spent so much time in the minor leagues (796 games), Kratz sees the main differences as the obvious off the field perks of better hotels, no busses, private team planes and getting treated so well by the major league staffs.
With a skilled catcher’s eye, Kratz sees the subtle on the field differences between AAA and the Major Leagues. The defensive scouting, incredibly talented middle infielders and pace of the game all stand out. “Once you have been up, you will see plays at AAA that you know would not have happened in the big leagues.”
Tactically, every nuance of situational strategy is used in the majors because runs are nearly always at a premium. “There is so much parity. The team that gets the 27 outs the most efficiently is going to usually win.”
Erik has crossed paths with several former Turks and was teammates with former Turk lefthander Brad Mills with the Toronto Blue Jays and at AAA.
With ties to EMU, the Valley League and the Rockingham County Baseball League, Erik was a big hit as a speaker at the JMU Baseball event in the off-season. He clearly appreciates how unique and fortunate he is to be a professional baseball player.
Baseball is a difficult game that requires the right talent and temperament to make your way through the ranks. Learn, but have a short memory. It begs you to quit. Erik’s persistent work has kept him playing the game he loves at the highest level. That is a win regardless what the scoreboard or standings say on a given day.
Have a great 2015 season. “We’ll be rootin’ for ya!”
Go Erik, Go Turks!
Dave Norman Turks Play-by-Play Announcer