FRANCONIA — Baseball may be what Erik Kratz is more known for, but golf balls from the Indian Valley Country Club’s driving range, which at the time was laid out differently, also played a part in his life when he was growing up nearby.
“I used to ride my bike and wait for people to shank balls, so it you were bad at golf about 25 years ago, thank you,” the 1998 graduate of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School (now Dock Academy) and current Milwaukee Brewers catcher said at the Indian Valley Chamber of Commerce’s 48th annual awards dinner.
“I got a lot of golf balls that went over to the other side of the road,” said Kratz, keynote speaker at the dinner, held Jan. 17 at the country club. “I’m not giving them back.”
Kratz said baseball doesn’t define him.
“I play baseball. That’s not who I am. It’s what I do,” he said.
It’s humbling to be asked to speak at events such as this, he said.
“It’s a gift that’s been given to me to speak up here and for people to listen,” Kratz said. “Everybody in this room’s been given gifts. I’ve been very fortunate that my gift is to play baseball.”
He encouraged those in attendance to be people who lift others up with the words they say.
While there are many things in his career that he can’t control, one thing he can control is how much work he puts in, Kratz said. Even though things might not go as planned, putting everything into whatever you do means, “You’re going to come out of it successful, whether it’s successful in the world’s eyes or it’s successful in your own eyes,” he said.
Later, during a question-and-answer period, Kratz said he got his work ethic by watching his father.
“For somebody to work as hard as he did and still be a good dad was awesome,” Kratz said.
In answer to a question about his favorite ball park, he started with Philadelphia’s.
“This is probably because I’m a hometown guy, but I love Citizens Bank Park. I love the energy that’s in the park,” Kratz said.
The View at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park is unmatched, he said.
“The energy in [Boston’s] Fenway Park is ridiculous,” he said. “The energy in that park is incredible.”
Milwaukee’s Miller Park is the loudest, he said, particularly during last year’s National League Championship Series.
Another questioner noted that Kratz lives out his Christian faith on the ball field.
“No matter the ups and downs, the Lord has put me in this situation, and I’m incredibly grateful for it,” Kratz said.
This time around, the Pillar Award, given to a business or organization with more than 75 employees, went to Grand View Health. Hoff Properties was the winner of the Cornerstone Award, given to a business or organization with less than 75 employees. The Charles H. Allebach Jr. Community Service Award went to the Indian Valley Character Counts! Coalition.
Grand View is Bucks County’s oldest hospital, Indian Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Steven Hunsberger said.
“Health care has changed a lot since we treated our first patients in a humble farmhouse-turned-hospital in 1913. Today, we’re excited to offer state-of-the-art treatment at our hospital and each of our convenient medical practices, outpatient centers and urgent care facilities,” GVH said in awards information.
“We come to work every day trying to do better than we did yesterday, and tomorrow, we’ll come to work trying to do better than we did today,” GVH CEO and President Jean Keeler said.
It’s a privilege for the people at GVH to serve their neighbors in Bucks and Montgomery counties, she said.
“Almost all of us live here,” she said. “This is our community. You are our neighbors.”
GVH persons in attendance at the dinner included physicians, administrators, auxiliary members and board members, she said, describing them as pillars of the organization — “the people that prop us up.”
“Our long relationship with the local community is an important piece of what makes Grand View Health special,” award information said.
“This really is a community,” Keeler said. “This is a community that I moved to, and I never want to leave.”
Hoff Properties is a real estate development company based in Souderton, Hunsberger said.
“The primary focus is on redeveloping old vacant buildings throughout the Indian Valley,” Hunsberger said. “Hoff Properties’ goal is to turn dilapidated buildings into beautiful, well-functioning buildings that benefit the community and its residents.”
More than 20 start-up and small businesses are operating in Hoff Properties buildings throughout the Indian Valley, according to awards information.
Hoff projects have included the former Wes Freed Service Station in Souderton, now home to The Broad Street Grind, Play It Out and Love Obsessed; the former Keller’s Creamery/Stanley’s Furniture building in Franconia, where the tenants now include district court; and the former Hoffman’s Dairy in Telford, now home to The Great American Popcorn Works. This year’s Hoff projects involve turning a former industrial property on Broad Street in Telford into the Smoke Factory BBQ restaurant and reopening the Broad Theater in Souderton.
“Kyle [Hoff] has really done a fantastic job with his redevelopment projects, and it’s really neat to see some of the stuff that’s happening,” Hunsberger said.
“Our mission is to promote positive youth development by providing information, supporting programs and strengthening community relationships that promote the principles of Character Counts and that build assets to help Indian Valley youth stay healthy, safe and drug-free,” Indian Valley Character Counts! Coalition said in awards information.
The Charles H. Allebach Jr. Community Service Award is named in honor of former longtime Souderton Mayor Charles Allebach, who died in 2017.
“If you knew Charlie, you knew what kind of man he was,” Indian Valley Character Counts! Coalition President Christopher Hey said. “He was all about Character Counts. He was quite a character, too.”
It’s fitting that the coalition is being presented the award named after Allebach, Hey said.
“He was on our board. There wasn’t an event he didn’t come to. There wasn’t a time when he didn’t open his checkbook to help us stay afloat,” Hey said.
He encouraged those in attendance to, like Allebach, be positive role models to the young people in their lives.
“That’s what builds character,” Hey said.
In addition, Moyer Indoor/Outdoor was recognized for its 150th anniversary.
The family business began as a small feed mill in Souderton in 1869 and has grown to nine divisions designed to cater to the entire home, state Rep. Steve Maligari, R-53, said while presenting state House and Senate proclamations. The Senate proclamations were on behalf of state Sens. Bob Mensch, R-24; Maria Collett, D-12; and Steve Santarsiero, D-10, each of whom cover areas in which some of the chamber’s members are located, Maligari said. Proclamations were also presented to each of the award winners.
Moyer Indoor/Outdoor is active in the community, including holding its annual 5K, which funds scholarships for Souderton Area High School cross country team members; supporting the Pennridge Gallery of the Arts; and supporting the Souderton Community Pool, Maligari said.
“The Indian Valley has provided us with so many outstanding people,” said David Moyer, Moyer Indoor/Outdoor’s president. “We are looking forward to another 150 years.”
In her comments at the beginning of the presentations, Indian Valley Chamber of Commerce President Susan Armitage said 2018 started with the launch of the Chamber’s new website.
“As far as our chamber memberships, they’ve increased by 10 percent,” she said. “Our leadership program, LEAD Indian Valley, continues to grow.”
LEAD had 12 more graduates in 2018, she said.
“To date, the program has prepared 160 businesspeople for leadership roles in their organizations,” she said.
“My goal for the chamber in 2019 is to continue to actively pursue growth opportunities and seek ways to stay relevant in a changing world,” Armitage said.
In June, when the Indian Valley Chamber of Commerce holds its annual golf outing, it will be in a partnership with Penn Foundation that will also address the opioid epidemic, she said.