In 1999, EMU knew it was getting a great ball player in Eric Kratz. But how great, exactly? Not many could have guessed. During Homecoming weekend, Kratz’s success in both his college and professional careers was recognized by his induction into the EMU Hall of Honor.
Kratz put together a stellar career at EMU, racking up records and awards of all kinds. He broke the NCAA Division III record for career doubles (77), the ODAC career records for doubles (77) and hits (220), and the ODAC single-season records for slugging percentage (.993) and doubles (25). He holds many of EMU’s individual records as well.
Kratz was named to the NCAA All-American Second Team in his senior season, a season in which he also won the ODAC’s Triple Crown by leading the league in home runs, batting average, and runs batted in. In both his junior and senior seasons, Kratz was named to the NCAA All-South Region First Team and to the All-ODAC First Team. He was also named ODAC Player of the Year in both seasons.
Though his career at EMU ended over a decade ago, Kratz remembers those years fondly. Kratz cited the team’s trips to Florida for early spring tournaments as some of his favorite memories.
Also, it was particularly special to Kratz to make it to the ODAC tournament and win the quarterfinal game each of his four years. In order to make the tournament his senior year, the team needed to win both games against Lynchburg in the final double-header of the season. The team’s clutch performance on that day in 2002 is another of Kratz’s best memories of EMU baseball.
Of course, Kratz did not stop playing ball after his four years at EMU. The Toronto Blue Jays organization selected him in the 29th round of the 2002 MLB Draft. For seven years, Kratz played in the Blue Jays system.
The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Kratz in 2009 as a Triple-A catcher for the Indianapolis Indians. After proving himself as a reliable battery mate, Kratz was called up to Pittsburgh to replace Jason Jamarillo in July 2010. He appeared in nine games during the season.
After being signed by the Philadelphia Phillies organization the following year, Kratz had another outstanding season in Triple-A, earning him another call up in Sept. 2011. It was not until the 2012 season that Kratz received significant attention in the major leagues.
He played in 50 games for the Philadelphia Phillies, batting .248 and hitting an impressive nine home runs during the course of the season.
Kratz refers to his family as a big reason for his successful career.
“My wife and kids have given me so much perspective in baseball, because the look on their faces when I do badly is the same as the look on their faces when I do well. I know they will love me the same if I never play again or if I play for 10 more years. They also give me motivation to work hard, because I am not going to waste a second of my time if baseball takes me from my family.”
This past weekend, however, was less about recognizing Kratz’s Major League accomplishments than acknowledging and celebrating his success as a college baseball player. Though an induction into a small university’s Hall of Honor may seem like a small award to many accomplished professional baseball players, Kratz said his induction felt significant.
“It isn’t a small award because it is honoring what I accomplished when I was in school,” Kratz said.
Though Kratz admits the individual award is an honor, he also understands the significance of being part of a very good team. “Hopefully what we did as a team can also be recognized. To say I played on the best team to ever come through EMU is a great honor.”
In regards to the future, Kratz says he “would love to manage someday,” but that it would depend on his family, because he does not want to spend significant time away from them.
-Ryan Eshleman, Staff Writer