Regardless if we remember them or not, everyone dreams. On a sunny Wednesday afternoon in Allentown, Pa., while participating in his second straight Triple-A All-Star Game, Indianapolis Indians catcher Erik Kratz had his dream come true.
In the time it took Indianapolis manager Frank Kremblas to utter one sentence, the 6-foot-4 gentle-giant Kratz went from just another “almost but not quite” Minor League baseball player, to one of only a handful of success stories that prove with determination and hard work even the impossible is sometimes possible. In that one sentence from Kremblas’ mouth, Erik Kratz went from a 30-year-old Triple-A veteran to a 30-year-old Major League Baseball rookie with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
If you think it a bit near-sitted to say that a tricenarian has achieved a life-long dream, let me introduce you to the reality that is baseball. Baseball players have a relatively short shelf-life. At some undefined moment in a player’s mid-twenties they instantly go from Major League prospect to broken down Triple-A veteran just trying to survive in the only line of work they’ve ever known. Professional sports is the ultimate what have you done for me lately occupation.
As a professional baseball player, Kratz knows this better than anyone. That is why when his Indy manager told him the great news, he didn’t believe him at first, he thought it was a joke. Kratz told Mitch Williams of the MLB network that, “He was like, ‘You only had one more inning anyway. Would you rather go to the big leagues or go back into the game?'”
While the Indianapolis Indians will miss him and his leadership, he made the right decision.
Kratz was a veteran voice for the young pitchers in Indianapolis.
Kratz has spent nine seasons in the Minor Leagues, mostly in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, but he was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the winter of 2008 and optioned to the Circle City. The fact that Kratz is married and the father of two young sons made Minor League baseball an even tougher career choice. On more than one occasion he found himself working construction jobs in the offseason just to keep his dream alive.
There were several times over the last decade when he had considered hanging it up and walking away from the game he loves. As far back as 2004, when he was sidelined for most of the season with injuries “attached to his name” but didn’t really exist, he kept the dream alive for no other reason than that he loves the game. “I love playing baseball,” Kratz told MLB.com during Spring Training. “It’s a generic, corny answer, but I really do. And that’s what kept me going.”
Since Kratz joined the Indianapolis Indians in 2009, he had been a steady offensive bat in the lineup and a veteran presence behind the plate for the stable of young pitchers in the Pittsburgh organization.
Kratz played in a career-high 93 games during the 2009 season. He hit for a .273 batting average with 43 RBI in 319 at-bats. He was named to the mid-season and postseason International League All-Star teams, and even brought home the 2009 Triple-A All-Star Game MVP award.
So far this season, he was batting .296 with nine home runs and 37 RBI in 56 games for the Hoosier-hardballers. Yet some of his most memorable moments from the 2010 season didn’t come during games. While other players would be running out the locker room after day games at Victory Field, Kratz would charge out of the dugout with his two young sons, who are barely old enough to swing a bat, and teach them the game he loves so much.
Kratz is just one of more than a dozen Indians to take their game from downtown Indianapolis to the Steel City this year, and he won’t have as large of an impact as say a Pedro Alvarez or a Brad Lincoln. But his story is one that reminds you that sports can still be fun, and sometimes dreams really do come true.
For video of Eric Kratz learning of his Major League call up during the 2010 Triple-A All-Star game check out this link. Here is more video of Kratz being interviewed after making it to Pittsburgh and suiting up in a Pirates uniform for the first time during the regular season.