Five minutes with Erik Kratz

Posted: July 19, 2011

Playing at: Lehigh Valley (AAA)

Position: Catcher.

Height: 6-4. Weight: 255.

Age: 31.

Born: June 15, 1980, in Telford, Pa.

Bats: Right. Throws: Right.

High School: Christopher Dock.

College: Eastern Mennonite (Va.).

Resides: Harrisonburg, Va.

How obtained:

Signed as free agent on Dec. 1, 2010.

This season: He came into last night hitting a career-best .299 . . . His 13 home runs this season are three shy of his personal mark . . . Kratz, a highly regarded defensive specialist, is hitting .328 since May 24.

Check this out: Lehigh Valley is 42-22 (.656) when Kratz starts this season and 14-17 (.452) when he doesn't.

Career at a glance: Kratz was a 29th-round pick by the Blue Jays in 2002 . . . Played in the Pirates organization in 2009-10 before joining the Phillies.

Career highlight: Kratz appeared in nine games for the Pirates last year. "Getting called up validated all the hard work and sacrifice my wife [Sarah] and I went through," he said. "There are a lot of players that are better than me that will never see a big-league field. There are so many things that are out of your control."

Best memory: Survived a collision at the plate with Milwaukee's Prince Fielder (275 pounds). "He came with a little bit of heft to the plate," Kratz recalled. "It was a good collision. The place [Pittsburgh] was almost sold out. He ended up on the ground and I ended up still standing. The crowd was juiced. It was just one of those snapshot memories."

The Buster debate: Kratz would not be in favor of any rules changes geared toward protecting the catcher on plays at the plate. "Absolutely not. I feel bad for Buster Posey, but I don't think any player who has any competitive juice in him [would favor a change]. It's two guys who want to win the game. It's about getting that win."

Seeing stars: Kratz was an International League All-Star for the third consecutive year. In 2009, he was the IL's game MVP and last year he was called up to the majors in the middle of the All-Star Game.

Family life: Will be married 10 years on Dec. 15. He and his wife have two sons: Brayden (4) and Ethan (2).

Simple lesson: Kratz jokes that Brayden has taught him that it is sometimes best not to think too much at the plate. "I toss him the ball and he just hits it," Kratz said. "Why don't I do that?"

Most forgettable athletic moment: Revealed that he accidentally headed a ball into his own goal during a PIAA soccer playoff loss while at Christopher Dock in 1997. "I don't think anybody realized it went off my head," he said. "It didn't lose us the game, but it kind of sealed it. I've kept that quiet for 14 years."

As a kid: Grew up in Telford, about 45 minutes from the stadium complex. He was at Veterans Stadium for the first Interleague home game in 1997 when the Phillies played Boston. He also was at Game 4 of the 2009 World Series when the Phillies beat Tampa to take a 3-1 series lead.

Dream dinner guests: God, Ben Franklin and Jim Thorpe. "Jim Thorpe was such an extreme athlete that I would have liked to have met him," he said.

Favorite catchers:

Ivan Rodriguez, Darren Daulton.

Toughest pitchers he ever faced:

Charlie Morton, Justin Verlander. "In Double A, [Verlander] threw me a sinker at 92 [mph] for a strike, a curveball that jelly-legged me and then a waist-high fastball at 99. It was a quick three-pitch at-bat."

Favorite sports movie: "The Rookie."

Don't call him Crash: He bristles at the comparison to Kevin Costner's character "Crash" Davis from the movie "Bull Durham." "It kind of hurts when people say that," he explained. "He never really had a shot at making the big leagues and he was always down and out. But I feel like I've got a lot of playing yet."

- Ed Barkowitz

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