Erik Kratz never lost faith.
He could have done that on countless occasions. Waiting for your coveted shot after 11 minor-league seasons would challenge anyone’s patience. But here he is with the Phillies, in the midst of his fifth call-up this season.
Kratz isn’t just playing well, he’s thriving. And he’s playing his way into a permanent role, possibly as Carlos Ruiz’s backup next season, or maybe as a backup on another team.
“It hasn’t always been easy, but I love the game and didn’t want to give up,” said Kratz, who was given Monday night off in the series opener against the Braves. “I love the game of baseball, and just kept pushing and pushing. I always hoped and prayed that my chance would come.”
It has. Ruiz is out four to six weeks with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Brian Schneider started Monday, but Kratz has more than proven his mettle. The 32-year-old is 11-for-29 with four home runs and nine RBIs this season. Many of those hits have been in clutch situations.
“I’ve just tried to stay relaxed,” said Kratz, who has 11 career homers in the minor leagues. “I take each at-bat as it comes and try to make something happen. Being patient is the key.”
Kratz was named to the 2011 International League All-Star team, his third consecutive selection. From here on out, he’ll likely be in the major leagues — at least he should be.
“Without a doubt,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “Yes I do. I think Kratz right now can be a good backup catcher. It’s just how it is sometimes in baseball, being in the right place at the right time. Some guys get tested on how much they want it and how willing they are to work. Kratz might be one of those guys. There are a lot of people like that.”
All Kratz needed was a chance.
“It feels great, but I don’t take anything for granted,” Kratz said. “I take every day, every game, as a gift.”