ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
DETROIT — The trip from Deshler, Ohio, to Comerica Park is just more than a two-hour drive.
No one knows that better than Marc Krauss. He can tell you that route involves more than driving past the fertile fields of Henry County, then hitting the highway to reach the home of the Tigers. Krauss spent this past week with his Houston Astros teammates in Detroit after the 2006 Patrick Henry High School graduate reached the major leagues last season.
“To see how far I’ve come, and where I’ve come from, is kind of a pinch-me moment,” Krauss said. “Making it here is a dream I’ve had for as long as I can remember.
“I’m living a dream. It’s amazing what I’ve been able to do, and I’ve been very blessed and lucky.”
That Krauss, 26, has been able to make his dream come true is no surprise to his coach at Patrick Henry, Greg Inselmann.
“Right out of the chute, the thing that struck me was how coachable Marc was,” said Inselmann, who retired after leading the Patriots to a state title in 2008. “He had great athletic ability, but he also accepted coaching all through his career.
“He also was one of the guys who didn’t seek the limelight, and who was very genuine. The other players on our team really respected Marc.”
Krauss was a three-sport standout in high school who led the Patriots to a state football title in 2005, played basketball for his father, Dave, then was an All-Ohio pick as a catcher who led PH to the regional final in 2006.
He went to Ohio University and was the Mid-American Conference’s freshman of the year in 2007, then was MAC player of the year two years later.
Arizona selected Krauss in the second round of the 2009 draft, and he advanced to Double-A before the Diamondbacks traded him to Houston for Chris Johnson at the 2012 trading deadline.
“I had been with Arizona from the get-go [of my pro career], so my comfort level [was high],” Krauss admitted. “At first I was a little shocked, because that was the only organization I knew, but at the same time I was excited.
“I was getting an opportunity with an organization that is trying to go younger, so I knew I would have a better chance to get to the big leagues.”
Last season Krauss began the season with Triple-A Oklahoma City before earning a promotion to Houston in July. He hit .209 with four homers and 13 RBIs in 52 games with Houston, and he knew entering this season what he needed to do to make the Astros roster.
“I was drafted to be a hitter,” he said. “You have to make sure you can handle your position and do your job, but I knew my hitting would be my ticket to the big leagues.”
Krauss had a good spring with the Astros, hitting .293 and tying for the team lead with two home runs. Once the regular season began he struggled, though, and is hitting .164 with two homers and nine RBIs in 24 games.
“Right now he’s not swinging the bat as well as he would like to,” Houston manager Bo Porter said. “In spring training he gave us some thoughts that he could help us in the middle of our lineup, but he hasn’t swung the bat as well as he was in the spring. He gives us flexibility on our roster because he can play in the outfield and he is our third catcher.”
Krauss did not play in Houston’s win Thursday over Detroit at Comerica Park, instead spending extended time before the game working on his swing.
“You have to make adjustments almost non-stop,” he said. “You see how teams are attacking you and adjust. They are little things that happen almost every day.
“That’s the beauty of baseball, all the adjustments being made. And more of them are on the mental side than the physical side.
“Every day is a new day to prove your worth, to prove that you can help your team win. And that means help them in any way possible, whether it’s bouncing around to different positions, being a good pinch-hitter, or putting together quality at-bats and driving guys in on the days I am in the lineup.”
That work points to what drives Krauss now: His next goal is to solidify his spot on the Houston roster and become an everyday major league player.
“Just to make it here is a big deal; it was something I dreamed about for a long time,” Krauss said. “Now the trick is to try and stay.
“You hear all the time that it’s hard to make it, but it’s even harder to stay. You’re facing the best competition in the world day-in and day-out, so you have to stay on top of your game.”
Back home, Krauss remains an example of what is possible.
“That’s what Marc means to our program today," current Patrick Henry coach Shawn Sunderman said. "Our kids can look at his example and say, ‘Man, if I work hard, that could be me.
"For some guys, it hits home that a guy who is in the major leagues now was in the same locker room. They know now that if they can dream it, they can achieve it.”