Mark de la Motte said at the professional baseball level, everyone has the physical skills.
It’s the mental aspect of the game, and the ability to handle failure, that separates those who can crack a major-league lineup.
So, it was not a big surprise to him when he found out Monday night that one of his former players at Turlock High, 2011 graduate Kevin Kramer, was called up to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“He’s one of the few guys who has the mentality to deal with the ups and downs,” said de la Motte, who coached Kramer for three seasons. “He’s very intelligent. He gets it.”
Kramer, a second baseman, received a call on Monday to get to Pittsburgh as fast as he could. The Pirates made the announcement official on Tuesday, and issued him a No. 44 jersey before the team took the field against the Cincinnati Reds.
Kramer told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Tuesday that his hard work this season paid off. He could always hit for average (Playing for Indianapolis, Kramer was third this year in hitting in the Triple-A International League with a .311 average), but what those in the organization noticed most was an increase in extra base hits — he had 35 doubles and 15 homers. He also drove in 59 runs.
“I struggled a bunch in May,” Kramer told TribLive. “For me, it was big to start adjusting timing-wise instead of always focusing on mechanical issues and stuff like that. I started to slowly concern myself with how on time I was with the pitcher.”
Hard work signified his time at Turlock, where de la Motte said Kramer always had “his best games against the best player.”
He said Kramer, who bats left, impressed UCLA recruiters when they saw him hit an opposite-field homer in Turlock. At UCLA during his freshman year, the Bruins won the College World Series. He graduated with a degree in history.
He was drafted by the Pirates in the second round of the 2015 draft, 62nd overall.
Nicholas Caporoso, a blogger who covers the Pirates, pegged Kramer as Indianapolis’ MVP.
“Kramer, a second-round pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015, has become one of the most intriguing prospects in the upper minors after the way he hit this year,” he wrote.
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said he’ll use Kramer at second and third base this month.
Kramer is the fourth of de la Motte’s former players to reach the majors, joining Steve Soderstrom, Dan Reichert and Steve Andrade, who played under de la Motte at Stanislaus State. Among other Turlock High players to reach the big leagues are Brad Lesley and Frank Duffy.
“It’s rewarding to see anyone succeed, whether they’re a fireman or a teacher,” de la Motte said. “I’m really proud of (Kramer) and happy for him and his family.”