From the Field: #KRATZTOBER

By Lauren Jefferson | December 13th, 2018

Milwaukee Brewers catcher Erik Kratz ’02 homers in his first at-bat of the Aug. 31 game against the Washington Nationals.

Veteran Erik Kratz ’02 Helps Milwaukee Brewers to World Series Bid

ONLY ONE BASEBALL TEAM ends their season with a “W,” and in 2018, it wasn’t the Milwaukee Brewers. But catcher Erik Kratz ’02, who has weathered the ups and downs of many Ws and Ls (in baseball parlance, wins and losses) in his 17 seasons of professional baseball since graduating from EMU, would chalk up a W for this last one just the same.

Losing “will never take away all the great I got to see in my teammates, friends and MKE,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “The future is really bright but this season will shine forever in my heart.”

Besides setting a career-best season in several statistical categories including starts, Kratz also made baseball history: He is the oldest player (since 39-year-old A’s third baseman Lave Cross in 1905) to make a postseason debut and the second- oldest catcher in postseason history with three hits in a game.

Kratz could teach a class in negotiation, contracts and plain old life logistics of being a pro player: he has played for 30 minor league teams and experienced just about every type of transaction possible in the business – trades, releases, purchases, claims off waivers, and free agency.

But the truth was, as Brewers manager Craig Counsell pointed out, his longevity as a catcher points to some sterling talent: “If you’re 38 years old and still catching,” he said, “it’s almost assuredly 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 visits with a young fan during pre-game batting practice.

The media, both midwestern and national, was quick to catch onto Kratz’s unique feel-good story – one many of his true fans have followed for a long time. “A true baseball lifer is getting his shot on the big stage, and hasn’t disappointed,” wrote SB [Sports Blogging] Nation.

Kratz’s “journeyman” story was re-told by broadcast announcers in each game he played. The attention didn’t just come from where he’d been or what he did on the game’s biggest stage; it was also on how he played the game, with focus and passion and integrity.

Certainly his division series Game 2 and 3 contributions, during which he provided a key 2-run single and then went 3-for-4, helped to catch the collective baseball world’s attention. Then Kratz, wearing a microphone, provided an unforgettable soundtrack to Game 7’s last out. After watching the catch, before celebrating the biggest win of his long professional career, he turned around to thank and bless home plate umpire Teddy Barrett.

Making the social media rounds too was his postgame interview with an All-Star trio of FOX MLB commentators, during which Kratz, nonplussed, reminded them that his orbit had crossed theirs, even if for a few days. “Well, Papi,” he said, ignoring David Ortiz’s question and taking care of first things first, “do you remember we were actually teammates?” Frank Thomas, who ended his career with the Blue Jays, asked the next question and Kratz also could not let this opportunity pass him by. “Me and Frank, we were in Big League camp together a couple of times. If Frank forgot that, that’s OK, I didn’t want to single just Papi out there.”

In an already memorable season, Kratz played one of his two final games in front of a special crowd. Nicknamed the Kratz Krew by the media, 14 EMU-linked buddies* now living around the country rendezvoused in Milwaukee’s Miller Stadium for a crucial Game 6, somehow keeping their plan a secret until pre-game, when Kratz found them in the front row seats on the first base line, wearing former team jerseys raided from his closet, smiling and waving and near tears with joy at seeing their friend on the field, just two wins away from the World Series.

It didn’t happen, but “October’s Unlikely Hero” (Baseball America) isn’t done yet, and MLB’s “Best Story in Postseason Baseball” isn’t over yet. We’ll be watching, Erik Kratz.

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