Friday’s winner is Juan Pierre. He moves on to face Mike Lowell in the elite eight.
In our first elite eight matchup, we have Erik Kratz (Waynesboro 2000, Harrisonburg 2001) vs Brett Gardner (New Market 2003-04).
- Kratz defeated Chad Tracy, Johnny Oates, and Aubrey Huff to get here. His writeup: “[Kratz] is a local- he is an EMU grad. His number hangs on the outfield fence in Park View, and he was the alumni of the year just this past fall. Kratz was drafted in the 29th round in 2002 by the Toronto Blue Jays, and has played in the majors in parts of 10 different seasons (so far). He was a hero for the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2018 NLDS against the Rockies, when he went 5-8 at the plate, with a double and an RBI. He also made some waves at the time by proving to be a fun and interesting interview. He’s back with the New York Yankees for the 2020 season, assuming it will be played at some point.”
- Gardner defeated Chris Hoiles (hey Joe Deck) and Mo Vaughn to get to this point. His writeup: “There is a legend (myth?) about Brett Gardner in college that sums him up pretty well, I think. The story goes like this: in 2002, Brett Michael Gardner tried to walk on to the College of Charleston baseball team. After a day, or two, supposedly, Gardner did not make the team… but no one told him, officially, that he was cut. So he kept showing up, day after day, working his butt off to improve as a player. No one told him to go away, so he kept showing up. He ended up batting 83 times as a freshman, hitting a pretty anemic .241, with a .325 slugging percentage. You would be forgiven if you thought that the young man had no chance to be a major league baseball player at that point. He won a starting job as a sophomore, though, and showed an ability to get on base (he had a .370 OBP that season), and then steal a base, too, finishing with 28. He improved even more as a junior, and then exploded as a senior, hitting .447/.506/.571 in 273 at-bats, with 85 runs scored (in 63 games), 18 doubles, five triples, two home runs, 38 stolen bases (and he only got caught five times), and a silly 29/18 BB/K ratio. The Yankees drafted him in the 3rd round in 2005, and Gardner began working his way up the minor league chain, step by step, improvement by improvement. He reached the major leagues in late June, 2008, and eventually worked his way into a starting position in the outfield, showing the same patience/speed combo, with superb defense. His best season to date was probably the last one, 2019, in his age-35 season. In 141 games and 491 at-bats, Gardner hit .251/.325/.503, with 86 runs scored, 26 doubles, seven triples, 28 home runs, 74 RBIs, and 10 stolen bases. For his major league career, now spanning 12 seasons and 5,220 at-bats, he’s hit .260/.342/.401, with 68 triples, 124 home runs, 524 RBIs, and 267 stolen bases. He was named an All-Star in 2015, won a Gold Glove in 2016, led the American League in triples in 2013 and stolen bases in 2011, and won a World Series with the Yanks in 2009.”
Vote by going to twitter.com/JohnATVL to vote! (Closes Sunday morning)
And by the way, if you want to read much, much more about the 2019 VBL season, be sure to check out the 2019 Valley League Annual! (Or 2015, too, for that matter.)