MILWAUKEE – Erik Kratz outdid himself.

His postseason debut, when it came – if it came – was always going to be memorable. He’s 38 years old, playing for his 11th major-league team in his 17th season. They make movies about scenarios like that, complete with majestic camerawork and soaring music to heighten the drama.

Only there’s no scriptwriter good enough to do justice to Kratz’s long-awaited day.

In his first playoff game, the journeyman catcher drove in two runs in his final at-bat, breaking open what had been a close game as the Milwaukee Brewers took a commanding 2-0 lead in their best-of-five NL Division Series.

“I hit a homer in the Triple-A playoffs one time, that was pretty cool,” Kratz cracked after the 4-0 victory.

“Yeah, it’s the biggest hit,” he continued. “Just like the strikeout the time before was the biggest strikeout of my career. That’s what this moment is. It’s something that is – I feel like it’s an incredible opportunity to be here.”

One Kratz sometimes doubted would ever come.


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Baseball is a young man’s game, and catcher is an even younger man’s position. Yet Kratz has managed to hang on for the better part of two decades, moving from team to team, bouncing between the minors and the majors.

As tenuous as a roster spot was, the playoffs proved even more elusive.

He was with the Philadelphia Phillies when they won the NL East in 2013 but was left off the postseason roster. Same with the New York Yankees last year.

He was with the Kansas City Royals in 2015, the year they won the World Series, and even thought he had a chance of getting into a game as a pinch-runner. But the opportunity never materialized.

“One thing I always took from those nine or 10 times that it happened was the sense of calmness that I felt,” Kratz said. “It gave me satisfaction that my preparation was there.”

The Royals gave everyone on their roster a World Series ring, and Kratz has his somewhere. But there’s a difference between getting one and earning one, between being on the roster and being on the field. Just once, Kratz wanted to see what the latter was like.

Kratz was acquired by the Brewers in May, one of those deals that flies under the radar for all but the most diehard of fans. But given his history and Milwaukee’s fight for a playoff spot, he figured the Brewers would bring in another catcher and he’d be on the move again.

It never happened. When the playoffs began, Kratz was on the roster. When the lineup was posted Friday, his name was on it.

Kratz singled in his first at-bat, but flied out and struck out his next two times at the plate. When he came to bat in the eighth inning, the Brewers had a 2-0 lead and the bases loaded with two outs. 

Instead of shrinking in the moment, Kratz shined, delivering a two-run single to put the game out of reach. 

“His path is a lot different from a lot of other people’s. I couldn’t be prouder of that guy,” said Mike Moustakas, who counts Kratz as a friend and a teammate after playing with him in Kansas City.

That different path has given Kratz a different perspective, too. While everyone else will remember his first postseason appearance, his first hit in the playoffs, Kratz will remember everything.

All of the games and all of the teams. The missed chances and the made opportunities.  

“To play in this game in May is a blessing,” he said. “And to play in this game on Oct. 6th or 5th or whatever it is, is a blessing.”

Hollywood couldn’t do it any better. 


Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour


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