Erik Kratz was a doubles machine in college.
Before graduating from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., in 2002, Kratz slugged a then-NCAA Division III baseball-record 75 two-baggers and held many other season and career records at EMU.
The Pennsylvania native went on to rap 160 more doubles over nine minor league baseball seasons with 11 different franchises and three different major league organizations before smacking his first big-league double for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011.
Along the way, Kratz married Sarah, a 2001 EMU grad, and the couple had three children while Erik kept plugging away as a professional ballplayer. He played in the minor leagues in parts of nine seasons before making his major league baseball debut in 2010.
“My wife and I prayed about it quite a bit when we were in different trying times,” said Kratz, who was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 29th round of the 2002 MLB first-year player draft and played his first game in “The Show” with the 2010 Pittsburgh Pirates.
Later dealt to the Phillies, the 6-foot-4, 255-pound catcher has played 61 big-league games, including 50 for Philadelphia in 2012. He hit .248 with nine homers, nine doubles and 26 runs batted in.
He will go to spring training in Clearwater, Fla., in February with no preconceived ideas about where he will begin his 2012 season, even though Phillies starter Carlos Ruiz will be out for the first 50 games because of a PED-related suspension.
“Until I’m written into a lineup I don’t consider myself on any teams,” said Kratz. “I will try to stay sharp and build on last year.”
Kratz, a graduate of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School in Lansdale, Pa., will be the featured speaker Monday, Jan. 21, for Waterford Mennonite Church’s “Night at the Ballpark.” The event is sponsored by Waterford’s youth group as a fundraiser for youth convention and service trips.
Kratz, 32, has been described as someone who has persisted through the grind and sacrifice of minor league baseball (full-season teams play 144 games in 152 days and half of those are away from home).
While his hometown of Telford, Pa., was about 45 minutes from Allentown, where Philadelphia’s Triple-A affiliate (the Lehigh Valley IronPigs) is located, friends and family still had to hold down jobs and could not be at all of the team’s homestands. Plus, Kratz had business with the team, leaving little time to socialize.
“Everybody has perseverance,” said Kratz. “It’s all a matter of perspective. I’ve gotten a lot of support from friends and family. “Minor league baseball is a hard thing to understand. I played it longer than somebody should play it. Even for my wife, sometimes it’s hard for her to know everything that’s going on.”
Even though Eric and Sarah decided to take the family — which now features Brayden (6), Ethan (3) and Avery (3 months) — to most minor league outposts, it was still not like the comfort of home in Harrisonburg, Va., near the school where Erik once ripped baseballs and became a member of the athletic hall of fame in 2012 and his family attends Harrisburg Mennonite Church.
Gates for Waterford’s “Night at the Ballpark” will open at 6 p.m., with a meal consisting of Philadelphia and ballpark favorites. There will also be opportunities for autographs and chances to win game-used memorabilia provided by Kratz.
Advance tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students by contacting the church office at 533-5642 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets will be an additional $5 each on the night of the event. In advance, groups can also purchase a table of 10 tickets for $200. For an additional $20, persons can provide a ticket for a child at the Boys & Girls Club. “Stadium signage” is also available, allowing businesses to hang a banner. For details contact Lyle Miller at email@example.com.