Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Kramer Bros.

 I think about baseball when I wake up in the morning.  I think about it all day and I dream about it at night.  The only time I don't think about it is when I'm playing it. - Carl Yastrzemski

Mike Kramer is a boyhood friend of mine, first meeting and being picked on (by him) at a Boy Scout meeting back in Rib Mountain Elementary School.  For over 40 years, we have remained so, growing up together, surviving school, college and starting families.  Even now, we're both going to become grandpas during the same year.  Mike was always has been athletic, more so than I during our school years, and it's something passed down to his kids.  His three sons (the "Kramer Bros.") all flocked to the Concordia College baseball program in St. Paul after a solid high school career.    Sister Anna also attended Concordia and has been their biggest fan, along with "ma and pa" as Mike would say.

James and Jared
James is the oldest and first to share the Kramer talent in St, Paul.  Wausau West HS has always been a strong baseball program and I think Concordia welcomed him in.  Besides being a catcher, James also worked a stint as the visiting clubhouse "boy" for the Minnestota Twins-oh the stories he can tell (and we listen intently!).  Baseball is in his blood to be sure.  Now graduated and working and a dad-to-be, he helps coach the team and does his best to keep the two younger Kramers on the straight and narrow.

 I did play ball (softball-beer league, Ha!) but the sport was not in my DNA and I don't live it like the Kramers.  Part of it was maybe watching thousands of games while I worked as a groundskeeper through high school and college, watching games at every level, from Legion ball through pro teams.  One common core to all those teams was the role of the catcher-it's the one person who is involved in every pitch, every play in every inning during the game.  Mike always said it was the best position to play-the catcher is really the on field manager.  Jared is the next oldest brother and following in older brothers steps, a catcher.

Mr. On-Base Percentage
"Jere" has a sly fun loving smile under the helmet and mop of red hair and as with all catchers does his best to control his pitchers. Must be a fun job, and at the game these images were made, I enjoyed watching him direct and remind players on defense what was going on.  He's no slouch with a bat in hand either commented Coach James-in fact the previous week Jared landed a dinger in Kirby Puckets seat in the Metradome-qute a poke!  On this day however, his most crushing hit took place in BP when older brother received a bullet back, nearly breaking his elbow.

I think the real highlight for all of the family and friends that came to watch this game was seeing youngest Kramer brother Adam as THE pitcher under this catchers direction.  It was the first time I'd seen them play let alone as the battery working the hitters from the opposing team.

Conference on the Mound
Adam is the last Kramer to share his talents on the Concordia team (for a while anyway) and has really been an impressive pitcher, even playing in the Northwoods League during the summer.  The game we watched against Winona State earned him NSIC Pitcher of the Week honors as winning hurler throwing a one hitter with six strikeouts.  Adam is quiet, almost shy but that demeanor is not reflected in how he pitches.  His repertoire of pitches includes some real heat and with the help of Jared, they had little problem selecting throws that would work to make hitters look silly.
The Look
It's all business while Adam is pitching.  The job entails not only getting the ball over the plate but holding runners tight if they should reach base.  This game saw witness to Adams first pick at second base and as he recalled, he wasn't even sure how it all happened.  A quick turn, a perfect throw and a second basemens tag sent another runner to the dugout.  Wished I'd had the camera up at that second.
The Hurler
Much like Carl Yastrzemski's quote, I think the Kramer Brothers think about and live baseball about every second of the day and night and I felt honored to watch their skills on the diamond and on a field that hosted it's last Concordia game.  Although playing in a dome isn't "real" baseball, there were no complaints when they looked ahead to the following week and a game in snow and cold.  I doubt it'll matter, James will still keep them in line, Jared will keep things loose on the field and Adam will mow 'em down.  And in the stands, maybe shivering under a blanket, with be proud mom and dad and sister cheering them on.

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