Kratz: From MLB Catcher To Middle School Coach

November 18, 2022
Written by David Driver
Daily News-Record

Last March, Erik Kratz was in spring training with the New York Yankees catching All-Star pitchers before the pandemic shut down the sport.

Now a little bit over a year later — with Opening Day on Thursday — the former Eastern Mennonite University backstop is teaching the finer points of baseball to young boys not far from his boyhood home about 40 miles north of Philadelphia.

“It has been different but has been a really good different. There is always a lot of uncertainty” in pro baseball, said Kratz, 40, who is married with three children. “There are a lot of things that people don’t see. There is a lot of packing and stuff, and it is no nice not to be missing it.”

 

After four years of Division III ball at EMU and a pro career that lasted from 2002 to 2020, Kratz is the baseball coach for the middle-school team at Dock Mennonite Academy — which has campuses in Souderton and Lansdale, Penn.

“It is really cool; we have kids who have players who are really good to some who have never played baseball before and are learning the game from the grassroots,” Kratz told the News-Record in a telephone interview. “It is fun for me.”

One of the players on his team is his son Brayden, an eighth-grader who figures to be his shortstop when the team begins games next month.

“He is only 14 so I hope he plays all positions,” Kratz said. “On his travel team, he will probably be the shortstop there. He has caught, he has played third, he has played center field.”

After Kratz retired in November — he told the News-Record after the 2019 season that would be his intention — he spoke with Dock athletic director Tim Ehst about being the varsity baseball coach.

“But I don’t have any kids in high school,” pointed out Kratz, whose main reason for retiring as a player was to spend more time with his family.

For the same reason, he declined to be a varsity assistant since that would also take him away from his wife, Sarah (Troyer) Kratz, and children.

So Kratz asked Ehst about coaching the middle-school team. “For real? That would be great,” said Ehst, according to Kratz.

“We were really excited for him to coach at that level,” Ehst, a former EMU basketball player and 1976 graduate, said Tuesday of Kratz. “He is obviously well over-qualified.”

Kratz has one of the other fathers, Kyle Frank, assisting him and the mother of another player will also lend a hand. “She knows what she is doing and is someone that can help out,” Kratz said of EMU graduate Kara Derstine, one of the best softball players to come out of Dock.

 

Coaching youth may not be a long-term gig for Kratz, also a veteran of USA Baseball teams. Kratz has “put his name out there” for possible broadcasting jobs in the baseball industry though nothing has panned out.

He has also open to being a coach at the pro level, though he points out the pandemic has seen most Major League clubs cut back on their instructors in player development since there was no minor league season in 2020.

“We are using this year to seek out what is next,” Kratz said. “I think something great will come out of it. I want to make myself available for job opportunities in radio or television. I have talked to some networks, but no one is hiring. It is really about being home and being present; we will see what happens. At this point in my life, it is awesome to be at home. But at some point, I do need to be employed.”

Kratz was drafted out of EMU in the 29th round in 2002 by Toronto. While in college, he played for Waynesboro and Harrisonburg in the Valley Baseball League.

He toiled in the minor leagues before making his Major League debut with Pittsburgh in 2010. Kratz played at least two games in every Major League season for several teams through 2020, with a high of 68 games with his hometown Philadelphia Phillies in 2013.

He ended up playing in 332 Major League games and hitting .209 with 31 homers. Last year, he hit .321 for the Yankees in 28 at-bats over 16 regular-season games.

Kratz was a big part of the Brewers’ playoff success in 2018.

“If you’re 38 years old and still catching,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell told USA Today in 2018 about Kratz, “it’s almost assured that you’re a very good receiver of the baseball, you have a very good handle on managing a game, you take fast at knowing hitters.”

Kratz spent part of 2019 with the Giants. “He has a great way about him,” former Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy, who grew up in Northern Virginia and won three World Series titles, told the News-Record that year about Kratz. “He does a great job handling the staff.”

The right-handed hitting catcher also played in 1,027 minor-league games, hitting .259 with 134 homers. He was also used for mop-up duty as a pitcher in the majors seven times.

“Baseball is awesome,” he said. “It is a lot of fun to play, to be able to do all that. But at the beginning of spring training, there was all of the packing up and settling in. There was the enjoyment of spring training but then it was back to work. With two weeks left in spring training, you are packing up again and uncertain where you are going to go.”

Kratz has been watching Major League games on television and stays in touch with some of his former teammates, ribbing them with good-natured texts. “I love watching them,” he said. “I don’t miss it at all.”

So these days, he doesn’t have to worry about calling pitches for veteran and rookie pitchers alike. “I never worried about calling pitches. For me, it was hitting them” that was the problem, he said, with a laugh.

Wease Sells Turks, Will Continue To Coach

November 2, 2022

By Shane Melton
Daily News-Record

The name Bob Wease has been synonymous with the Harrisonburg Turks and the entire Valley Baseball League for more than three decades.

But after 32 seasons as president and general manager of the Turks, Wease sold the team and is handing those titles over to another Valley League veteran, Gerald Harman.

Harman takes over ownership and front office duties immediately while Wease will stay on to coach the club for his 21st season in the dugout. Wease is stepping back in large part due to his wife, Teresa, dealing with vision issues that have made working in front of a computer difficult. Teresa, who Bob Wease called the “backbone of the Turks” handled many of the behind-the-scenes responsibilities.

“I’m 79 years old,” Bob Wease said. “We’ve won a bunch of championships and a bunch of pennants. We’ve been ranked in the top seven in the country four of five different times. But my wife has an eye problem, and it just comes a time where you feel like you have to move on.”

Harman, a native of the Shenandoah Valley who said he grew up cheering for the Turks’ rival Staunton Braves, has worked for several other Valley League teams including in Luray, Woodstock, Staunton, and Waynesboro.

He’s been active in recruiting players to the league, an aspect he and Wease agreed has become more difficult in recent years as more collegiate summer leagues pop up around the nation. That will be a big focus for the Turks moving forward as they try to keep the talent level and quality of play up.

More than 165 former Turks have played professional baseball and some of the top coaches in the NCAA have also come through Harrisonburg, including Virginia’s Brian O’Connor and Florida’s Kevin O’Sullivan.

But at its heart, the Turks are a local club and fans may see some changes in the operation, but not many.

The gameday experience will be similar, though Harman said he’s hoping to add some new promotions at Veterans Memorial Park, including some with area baseball and softball teams ranging from youth leagues to high schools.

“I plan on hitting all the little leagues and get them out,” Harman said. “Hopefully to have a couple of little league teams here every game. I’ve thought about recognizing the high school players that make all-district and regions. Give them a little notoriety. We’re just trying to be big in the community. We want everybody to know, we’re the Harrisonburg Turks.”

Perhaps the biggest change may be in housing players. Wease paid to put players up in apartments for the summer, but Harman is hoping to rely on local host families, a typical route for many collegiate summer league teams.

“I’ll tell you why this is so exciting for me and also a little sad for me,” Harman said. “I feel like I’m taking Bob away, but that’s why I’m so happy he’s going to stick around and help me. It’s big shoes to fill, but I’ve jumped in them and it’s on me to keep the Turks at the top of the league.”

Thank You to Our Amazing 2022 Harrisonburg Turks

August 22, 2022

The Turks were blessed with these seven amazing student interns that were outstanding assets to our organization this past season.

Stephen Potucek and Nick Zona graduated from James Madison University in 5/2022. They were our Game Day Operations staff. They were responsible for contacting and assisting all of our National Anthem performers, Field of Dream Teams, First Pitch guests, and Pack the Park Night Sponsors. They created and produced all of our season game day rosters. They did a great job with our young fans running our on-field games. Our fans enjoyed their wit and energy. They made sure to greet all of our fans as they were leaving the games and encouraged them to come back. 

Stephen was the hardest working energizer bunny that we’ve ever had. He did his job and was always looking for what else he could help with. We’re looking forward to giving him a raving reference to whatever jobs he applies for. He’ll definitely be an asset to their company.

Nick Zona played on the JMU baseball team and was selected in the 2022 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners. He had to leave us the last two weeks before our season ended as he moved on to pursue his childhood dream of playing major league baseball. Nick also played for the 2019 Turks. We wish him all the best.

Quinn Madden from Shepherd University was our Social Media Director along with her assistant Elizabeth Helmich from James Madison University. These two talented young ladies did a fabulous job creating eye-catching graphics on all of our social media platforms all season for our fans to enjoy. 

Quinn does social media for the Shepherd University football team. She had a busy summer interning with the Turks and for the JMU Athletic Department to build her resume as she returns to school this fall. 

Elizabeth Helmich  Elizabeth is a media arts and design student at JMU where she plays for the Dukes   
Social Media            volleyball team. Elizabeth also had a productive summer interning both with the Turks and the JMU Athletic Department, while working some of their volleyball camps. She is a very talented young lady and we’re looking forward to attending some of her volleyball games this fall.

 

 

Logan Weller is a media arts and design, and sports communication student at James  Madison University. He is the Assistant to the Supervisor of Athletic Photography. We were blessed to have him as our team photographer. Logan captured outstanding action shots of our players, great memories of the player, and staff friendships. He was always at the right place at the right time to take that special shot to share that play, celebration, excitement, and the feeling of what was being experienced at that time by our players, coaches, and fans.                                     

John Breeden graduated from James Madison University this spring. He was our staff writer covering all of our Turks games this summer. John also did a good job writing interesting stories on our players and coaches. He had acquired his writing experience working on the JMU Breeze paper, and freelancing at the local Daily News-Record. We’re proud to report that after our season was over John was hired as a sports reporter for the DNR. We look forward to following his stories on all of our local sports in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.

Shelton Moss, our webcast broadcaster wasn’t an intern this summer. Shelton graduated from Virginia Tech last spring and interned with the Turks for the 2021 summer. He did such a great job we were excited to invite him back for another season of him sharing the action at our home games at Veterans Memorial Stadium into the homes of all our families and fans from afar. Shelton came to us last summer with plenty of experience announcing games at Virginia Tech. After our 2021 season, he was hired as an Athletic Communications Assistant covering men’s soccer and baseball at Radford University. Shelton was thrilled to return for another season with the Turks to continue to build his resume and his broadcasting form. We wish him continued success in his sports communication career.

The Harrisonburg Turks are very proud of these young people’s desire to gain experience and build their resumes with our organization. We can see each of them being successful with their work ethics and talents as they continue their professional journeys. We sincerely appreciate their energy and hard work, skills, and great personalities that helped to make the 2022 Turks season a huge success.
                                       

                                                     

                                                        

                                                        

        

Nick Zona’s Dream Comes True

August 8, 2022
John Breeden
Harrisonburg Turks

From the beginning, Nick Zona’s childhood dream was to play in the Major Leagues. He started playing baseball when he was five years old and has been around the sport his entire life. That dream became a reality on July 19, when he was drafted to the Seattle Mariners in the 20th round of the MLB draft.

“Obviously as a little kid, it’s a far goal [at] that young of an age,” Zona said. “As I’ve gotten older and older … the more I feel like I could make it happen.” 

The day he got drafted, Zona was working out with friends at James Madison University’s Memorial Hall. Once he got home, he got a call from a Philadelphia area code. He was thrown off at first by who it could be that was calling him. When he picked up the phone it was Scott Hunter, the scouting director from the Mariners.

“For a second, I was thinking it was a joke,” Zona said. “It was still the 20th round and I was expecting to go after the draft … then he popped up with that and I said, ‘Yes sir, I’ll take it.’”

Since getting drafted, Zona has been working out and getting back into the baseball routine at the Mariners’ training complex in Arizona.

A former JMU infielder, Zona is fortunate to have played for the Diamond Dukes because he said his development in college baseball has him ready for the professionals. “I feel like I have a better skill set than some other guys in some aspects because we’ve been working on drills and stuff at JMU,” Zona said. “It’s definitely a whirl of a difference.”

Zona was a big part of the Harrisonburg Turks family, having played 33 games in 2019 and averaged a .243 at the plate.

This past summer, he was the Turks’ game day operations intern until the time he was drafted. He said it was “crazy” how he both played and interned for the Turks and that the 2019 summer season was another step in improving as a player.

“I loved it there, being with the Turks with Bob Wease and Teresa,” Zona said. “They treat their players good, it’s a famous organization. That was the first time I was playing every single day, compared to college baseball … where you have some day breaks. I definitely needed that to start off my career.”

Zona compared summer ball to professional ball because they play almost every day and that if a player has an off night, they have to prepare for a quick turnaround and come back stronger the next day. Whereas in collegiate baseball, they have more days off.

 

When playing for JMU, the biggest thing Zona learned was how to communicate with other players. “I’m a Virginia kid going all the way out to Arizona with a bunch of random people,” Zona said. “It’s just meeting guys on the team again … intertwine, get to know each other, and come together as one. I think it [JMU] prepared me in that aspect.”

As Zona begins a new journey in life, he credits his family the most for helping him get to where he is today — especially his two older brothers, Jeffrey and Anthony. Without their willingness to help Zona, he doesn’t know if he’d be in the spot he’s in. Whether he’s playing good or bad, his brothers are there to talk to and build him back up.

“They want to sacrifice whatever they can to make me a better player,” Zona said. “Whether it’s throwing to me in the [batting] cages, throwing with me [or] hitting ground balls. I’m very fortunate to have them … they’ve made me who I am today.”

As Zona ventures off into the professionals, he’s going to take serious notes of his off-season work.

Now that he’s graduated from college, he can focus on bettering his skills 24/7. His goal is to take it one step at a time and not focus on the next step until he finishes what’s right in front of him.

“That’s the only thing I can control at this moment, so you can’t control anything outside of that,” Zona said. “Great players that make it into the Major Leagues … they can control how they can control. That’s the only thing I really want to take away, work really hard where I’m at right now in Arizona … and hopefully climb the ladder as fast as I can and make it to Seattle.”

1992 Turks Player Link Jarrett to Coach Florida State

Florida State University
June 24, 2022:

Link Jarrett Named 10th Head Coach in Florida State Baseball History

TALLAHASSEE – Link Jarrett, a two-time National Coach of the Year at Notre Dame and a 1994 Florida State graduate, was named the 10th head baseball coach in FSU history Friday by Vice President and Director of Athletics Michael Alford. The Tallahassee native has 10 years of head coaching experience, including the last three at Notre Dame, where he led the Fighting Irish to the 2022 College World Series for just the third time in school history.

Jarrett will be formally introduced at a press conference Monday, June 27 at 10:30 a.m. Fans will be able to view a stream of the press conference live on Seminoles.com.

“I think that Link is the finest coach in the game today, and that opinion is held by many in college baseball. We could not be more pleased that he will be leading our program,” said Alford. “He has been a proven winner at each of his coaching stops.

“His teams have not only posted historically successful seasons, but they have also mirrored Link’s tradition of running a first-class program. He is well-known for his record of developing players everywhere he has coached.

“He’s a Seminole through and through and there is no question that he will dedicate himself to the success of our student-athletes and his team. I know he is excited to be returning home and we are just as excited to welcome him and his family.”

⚾: Link Jarrett Named 10th Head Coach in Florida State Baseball History

Under Jarrett, Notre Dame went 86-32 (.729), the second-best winning percentage in the country in that span. Notre Dame’s 44-21 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference was the best in the league.

Jarrett was the 2021 ACC Coach of the Year and the D1Baseball National Coach of the Year. This season, after leading the Irish to a 41-17 record and a College World Series berth, Jarrett was named the NCBWA Mike Martin Coach of the Year.

“It has been an absolute privilege to represent Notre Dame which truly is one of the finest academic and athletic institutions in the country,” said Jarrett. “I want to thank Father Jenkins, Jack Swarbrick, Jody Sadler and the entire Notre Dame administration for all of their support during my time at Notre Dame. I want to thank all of our student-athletes for their tireless work ethic and dedication to our baseball program. Their accomplishments on and off the field are something I will cherish for the rest of my life. To the entire Notre Dame family and community, thank you for welcoming and supporting my family, you are truly first-class in every manner.

“I’m humbled to become the next Head Coach at Florida State. Having the opportunity to come home and lead this storied program is something I take great pride in. FSU is a special place to our family and I’m excited to be the next leader of Seminole Baseball. Our goals will be simple – to achieve on the field, in the classroom and embrace the FSU family and community. I know the expectations from our fans and we expect to compete for ACC and National Championships.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Link Jarrett back to his alma mater,” said FSU President Richard McCullough. “His proven and outstanding track record as a head coach makes him an excellent choice to lead our storied baseball program.”

Jarrett earned his bachelor’s degree in communication from Florida State in 1994. Jarrett and his wife, Jennifer – a former cheerleader at Florida State – have two children, J.T. a five-year baseball starter and 2022 Graduate in Sports Management, Business Leadership Development from NC State and Dawson, currently a junior at the University of Alabama majoring in Apparel and Textiles, Fashion Retailing.

Jarrett’s Career Accolades include:
  • Two-time National Coach of the Year at Notre Dame (2021, 2022)
  • Three-time conference Coach of the Year (2016 & 2018 at UNC Greensboro; 2021 at Notre Dame)
  • 2022 College World Series – only the third in Notre Dame history
  • Back-to-back Super Regionals for the first time in Notre Dame history
  • Finished 41-17 in 2022, most wins for the Irish since 2006
  • 301-198 career record as a Head Coach at UNC Greensboro (2013-19) and Notre Dame (2020-22)
  • Jarrett was the head coach at UNC Greensboro for seven years (2013-19), winning Southern Conference Coach of the Year honors in 2016 and 2018. He led the Spartans to the 2017 and 2018 Southern Conference Regular Season Championship as well as the 2017 NCAA Regional, the first for UNCG since 1997.
  • Jarrett was an assistant coach at Auburn for three years (2010-12), earning SEC Assistant Coach of the Year honors in 2010 the same year Auburn won the SEC West. Jarrett was in charge of the team’s offense and helped the Tigers set school records for batting average (.348), home runs (131) and slugging percentage (.591), the latter two both national bests in NCAA Division I baseball. Auburn’s 816 hits, 584 runs and 9.1 runs per game also finished in the Top 10 in the nation and led the SEC.
  • As an assistant at East Carolina from 2006-2009, Jarrett was part of a staff that led the Pirates to 40 wins per season including three NCAA regional appearances highlighted by a 2009 run to the Chapel Hill Super Regional.
  • Jarrett was named the 2009 Conference USA Assistant Coach of the Year when the Pirates led the country with 814 hits and were top 20 in runs, doubles, home runs, slugging percentage and batting average.
  • Jarrett was the recruiting coordinator for two seasons at Mercer (2004-05) and got his start in college coaching in 1999 at Flagler College in St. Augustine, where he coached for three years.
  • Jarrett’s first stint at his alma mater came in 2003 when he was an assistant under Mike Martin. The Seminoles finished the year 54-13-1 and were the ACC regular-season champions and the No. 1 national seed in the NCAA tournament.
  • Was a two-time All-American shortstop (1993 and 1994) and was part of Seminole teams that reached three College World Series and he still holds the NCAA record of 802 career assists.
Jarrett’s Head Coaching record: