July 23, 2013 by Wayne McBrayer with contributions & photos by Rebecca Herman
ON THE FARM AT LAKE ELSINORE
~~WITH ROBERT KRAL, JULY 3, 2013~~
May 10, 2013 – Our first trip to interview players for Padres360 was a memorable day for us at Lake Elsinore. Not only was it our first opportunity to interview players for our blog but also turned out to be the rehab start for Dodgers starting pitcher, Zack Greinke, who was injured after a bench-clearing brawl in San Diego. We interviewed five players that day and reviewed the roster afterwards to discuss who we wanted to get during our next visit … Robert Kral was the guy who topped that list. As we settled in for our first time in the Storm’s PressBox, we were surrounded by writers for the LA Times, MLB.com, and several other regional papers that were there to cover the Zack Greinke story. It was quite a crowd – truly standing room only for this typically quiet PressBox.
Greinke looked in great form and was getting hitters out one after another. However, one Storm player owned him that night and he was … you guessed it … Robert Kral. He went 3 for 3 with a homer and 2 doubles (one of the doubles hit the top of the wall almost going out) against one of the top paid pitchers in the game. In his post-game conference, Greinke said of Robert, “I think I threw him three strikes, and they were all, like, right down the middle. But he crushed all of them. I mean, that’s what he was supposed to do. He took the pitches that I wanted him to swing at, and then I had to throw a strike, and he was ready for it.” That sealed the deal for us. We needed to talk to the man that owned Greinke that night.
On July 3rd, we went back to The Diamond and were able to catch Robert after BP and ask if we could interview him after practice and he was happy to oblige.
Robert told us that he started playing baseball when he was about 5 or 6 years old. He talked about playing catch in the front yard with his dad and then that moved into T-ball, then coach pitch, and finally Little League. Growing up a Yankees fan, Robert loved the Captain of the Yankees, Derek Jeter. Robert liked Jeter as a player … “just the way he carried himself on and off the field – obviously an unbelievable athlete and player too. He was always a great person to look up to. That he always did things the right way and stuff like that and he is a really good role model.” He has never met Jeter, but he has a wonderful memory about Derek Jeter; “I do have an autograph from him though. When I was a little kid, I just happened to sneak through this crowd of people that were getting autographs at the game. I just stuck out my hand and he just took the ball and I got his signature.” To top it off, it was also the same day as David Cone’s perfect game. It was a crazy day and a fun day.”
As Robert continued to play ball, he settled into his favorite position, which is catcher. He played that in Little League, High School, and in College. Robert said, “I just like being in every play of the game. You always have to be aware of what’s going on.” The Padres have recently started to play him at 1B to get his potent bat in the lineup. He noted that first base is “definitely a lot easier on the body but catcher is a lot more fun.” He has worked on his defense at both 1B and catcher during spring training saying, “I want to become a much better defensive player” while continuing to “ work on my hitting as well.”
During our interview, Robert reflected back on his baseball career and spoke to us about some of his fondest memories of the game. “For baseball, getting drafted obviously was a memorable day. In college we went to the regional finals with my college Charleston team that was unbelievable and in Little League we came one game away from going to Williamsport, which was a blast that year. So there have been a few good ones, but those are the 3 that really stick out.”
As we wrapped up the interview, we talked about what other career choices he had. What direction would he have gone with if he didn’t fall in love with ‘The Grand Old Game’ and go to college and play baseball? To our surprise, he told us, “I would love to be a professional hockey player.” He had played hockey his whole life and absolutely loves that sport. But like many athletes, he had to select one when entering college and he decided that baseball was best for him because he loves it. But if he weren’t playing baseball, he believes he would be playing professional hockey. What is his favorite team you ask? The New Jersey Devils!
While with Lake Elsinore Storm this year, Robert averaged .291 – including 14 2B, 4 3B, 12 HR, and 41 RBI. Shortly after our interview, Robert was called up to the San Antonio Missions – Double-A Texas League. This hit machine that he is seems to carry on in AA as he is hitting .300 and has 2 HR in 6 games.
For his complete and up-to-date stats, please CLICK HERE
Robert Kral is a man who played the tough sport of hockey, chose a career path with baseball, and decided early on he wanted to catch so he could be “in every play of the game.” Keep an eye on Robert Kral as I am sure he will be in the big leagues soon, much to the dismay of Zack Greinke.
In the meanwhile, be sure to connect with Robert ….
- Follow on Twitter @rob_kral
Interview & Story by Wayne McBrayer, TheCasualFan
Editing & Photography by Rebecca Herman, TheBaseballPHD