Phillies fans seemed to mind losing someone who had become one of their favorite players these last two seasons: backup catcher Erik Kratz. In fact, a fan poll on Philly.com today showed that the fans really do miss Kratz, though the numbers might indicate that that he is simply a defensive backup catcher:
The poll, of course ignores pitcher Rob Rasmussen and most fans probably have never heard of Brad Lincoln prior to the trade. They just know that they're going to miss a guy they like. Prior to Kratz winning a job on the big league roster, a fan set up an online petition to get Kratz onto the club. Why might that be? Kratz is just a good guy.
Fans who have encountered Kratz know that he is a special guy, who always appears to be grateful for the opportunity to play and to interact with the fans who support him. I witnessed this first hand this Labor Day weekend when I traveled up to Chicago for the Phillies' four-game series at Wrigley Field.
I stayed in the same hotel that the players were staying in and bumped into plenty of players in thej lobby or the elevator throughout the course of the weekend. On Saturday morning when the Phillies and Cubs had a day game, I was sitting on a couch in the lobby having some coffee while the rest of the people I was with were getting ready. It just so happened that right next to me is where a young boy of maybe eight or nine years old stopped Kratz to ask him to sign his baseball.
In a lobby where many Phillies players did whatever they could to avoid talking to fans, pretending to be paying attention to a bogus cell phone call or simply pretending that there was nobody around, Kratz stopped. Not only did he sign the ball, but he stopped to talk to the boy.
"Where are you from?" he asked the boy.
"Philadelphia", the boy said.
"Wow - you came all the way here to see us? That's great. Where do you go to school?"
The conversation continued for a few minutes. I think the boy was completely stunned to be given that much attention from a real Major League baseball player. I am sure this boy will never forget that meeting as he surely will display that ball proudly as he grows up.
I am sure that the Blue Jays' familiarity with this high-character player played a part in their acquisition of his services; Kratz was drafted by the Blue Jays back in 2002. And now they will be able to make continued "Canadian Bacon" jokes when they learn that he has a connection to Godshall meats.
Kratz only spent parts of three seasons with the Phillies and batted in the .220s. Yet, his high character has left a mark with the Phillies fanbase.