Erik Kratz proved you can go home again. Literally.
His life has come full circle.
The veteran Major League catcher has moved his family back to Telford, where he grew up and began his baseball career as a member of the Christopher Dock baseball team.
Kratz is with his ninth organization since he began in the majors in 2010 after nine years in the minors. He is currently a member of the New York Yankees Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, and, at 39 years old, realizes he is in the final stages of his career. He and his wife, Sarah, will have their three children – Brayden, Ethan and Avery – enrolled at Dock this fall.
“It all came back around,” said Kratz. “It was in the anticipation of the end of my career that will culminate in being in a more populated area for more job opportunities.”
Kratz recalled his playing days at Dock as ones that truly can categorize him as a late bloomer. He went on to Eastern Mennonite University where he became the first player to be drafted, chosen in the 29th round of the 2002 Major League draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Viewed as a defensive catcher, Kratz has a lifetime .205 average with 31 homers in the majors, spending three consecutive years with the Phillies from 2011 to 2013. He hit .282 in his first 32 games at Triple-A Scranton this year.
“I didn’t make the high school team until my junior year,” said Kratz, whose team won a league title in his graduation year of 1980. “Personally, I was a little ignorant thinking how good I was. Thinking back, I loved playing with the guys I did. We only had 11 guys, and everybody was playing different positions.
“It’s amazing how much I learned since then, but it also was amazing how good we were at that time to do what we did with players we had. That’s all we knew.”
Kratz, who looks like he is in great shape with his 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame, has begun to cherish his baseball travels over time and has allowed the situation to take its course.
He truly has taken a philosophical approach to the twilight of his career.
“The mental strain has subsided,” he said. “You learn to appreciate every situation that you are in even if you know the truth of the situation. I have been shipped to teams as fill-ins. With the different moving around in my career, I have learned to make the most of it.
“The competitiveness won’t go away. The result is something I can’t control, but I can manipulate it with the work I put in. I have constantly learned more to get better each day. It’s not one thing but a bunch of things – workouts I do, what I eat and how I work with my teammates.”
Kratz hasn’t felt any of the expected physical rigors that typically affect players in their late 30s.
“I haven’t started to feel it yet,” he stated. “I feel the same if not better than when I was 28. I just try to improve 1 percent every day.”
He would like to stay in the game in some fashion and also has other options in mind.
“It’s wide-ranging,” said Kratz about his possibilities. “I’d like to stay in the game, but if it doesn’t give me time at home with my family, it’s off the list. It’s been a rough travel schedule for my wife and kids.
“I believe there are jobs I can do to help organizations. I could be a coach, advisor, coordinator or even do radio. I haven’t gone on a job interview in 20 years.”
With Scranton likely in the postseason, Kratz plans to continue to enjoy the ride.
“I’m close to the end and I can see it,” he said. “I have been fortunate to play this game for a long time. There is a lot of young talent here and I just want to help where I can.”