Northampton Press

Monday, October 15, 2018

Kratz returns to Lehigh Valley

Thursday, May 10, 2018 by chuck hixson Special to the Press in Sports

Erik Kratz is a guy who has come to accept his baseball life for what it is. In each of the last eight seasons, the Telford, Pennsylvania product has played at least a couple of games in the majors and has done so with six different major league teams, including the Phillies. He continued the streak last season when he played in four games with the Yankees and he’s returned to the organization this season and is playing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

As one of the more popular IronPigs players over the team’s first 11 seasons, Kratz always receives a warm reception when he comes in as a visiting player. Coca-Cola Park will always hold somewhat of a special place in the heart of Erik Kratz as well, for what happened to him in the home dugout during the 2010 Triple-A All-Star Game.

“That’s one of those moments you can never forget. I’m sure everybody remembers when they got that first call, but that played out perfectly for me,” remembers Kratz who was a member of the International League All-Star team as a member of the Indianapolis Indians.

Kratz was the starting catcher for the IL squad with his wife and family on hand to watch the game. Charlie Montoyo, the manager of the Durham Bulls was the team’s manager for the game. He approached Kratz in the dugout after just a couple innings and told him he was coming out. While players expect to not necessarily play all nine innings in an all-star game, Kratz wanted a little more field time. What Kratz didn’t know was that Montoyo had received an in-game phone call that forced his hand.

“He came up to me and just said I was done and I thought, ‘what are you nuts?’ Then he just sort of gave me a look and said ‘well, then I guess I’ll just have to tell the Pirates you’d rather play here than come up to the majors,’” remembered Kratz.

It was the first time that Kratz would get a chance to be called a major leaguer. A short celebration took place in the dugout and Kratz quickly called his wife and readied to head for what would be at least eight straight seasons of playing in the big leagues.

Now, at age 37, Kratz knows the writing is on the wall.

“It has been amazing. When I look back, I am so blessed,” recalls Kratz. “Every game that I put a uniform on is special. Any of these days could be my last and when I took that Yankee uniform off at the end of last season, I thought ‘if this is how it ends, so be it.’”

With kids and a wife who have sacrificed time with him, Kratz is at the point where he figures he wins either way. He either gets to keep playing a game that he loves or he goes home to a family and gets to really spend time with them.

Could the future hold an opportunity as a coach or scout? Right now, that’s not a burning question for Kratz and one that he alone won’t answer.

“That’s going to be a family decision. They’ve given me enough and if my family doesn’t want me to keep doing this, then it’s done,” said Kratz. “I’ve been so fortunate, but it’s come at a cost of time with my kids and with my wife, so I’m prepared to just move on from here if that’s the way it plays out.”

I KNOW YOU... Playing with the RailRiders this season, Kratz is reunited with a teammate from his days with both Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia. Cody Asche signed with the Yankees after opening the year in the Mets organization and the two are teammates again this season. Asche is struggling offensively and has been relegated to a bench role with the RailRiders. He’s hitting just .169 with a .258 on-base percentage in 16 games with Scranton.

CAM CAN... Another fan favorite, Cam Perkins is playing his first season in the Pacific Coast League with the Tacoma Rainiers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Perkins is off to a fast start with a .307 average and a .383 on-base percentage. In 29 games, he’s homered twice and has driven in 19 runs.

HANGING IN THERE... Former IronPigs and Phillies reliever Jake Diekman continues to work his way back after a battle with severe ulcerative colitis cut his 2017 season short. Diekman was traded to Texas with Cole Hamels in 2015. Last season he pitched in just 11 games because of his battle with UC. He’s back this season and has pitched in 16 games for the Rangers, posting a 4.38 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 12 innings of work.