When FOX Sports Wisconsin Milwaukee Brewers analyst Bill Schroeder offers an opinion of what pitching coach Rick Kranitz might be saying on a late-inning visit to the mound, it’s more than just conjecture. Schroeder was part of those same conversations with Kranitz 30 years ago.
The two men played together in the Brewers’ farm system as batterymates in Double-A El Paso in 1981 and Triple-A Vancouver in 1982.
“Bill was always a good catcher,” Kranitz said. “Always liked throwing to him, you know he would be a guy to come out to the mound and let you know, too — shake you up — which I always liked anyway. Always called a good game.”
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Schroeder, 53, enjoyed working with Kranitz and didn’t mind when Kranitz would disagree when Schroeder called for a certain pitch.
“He shook me off,” Schroeder said. “That’s why he’s so smart; he’s a smart guy. Any pitcher who doesn’t shake off a catcher isn’t thinking too much out there, in my mind.
“I like a guy who has a mind of his own out there, and he was a guy if I kept firing down one sign saying throw this, he’d call timeout and he would actually walk at me as I was walking toward him. Pitchers have to shake you off. I’ve never caught a game where I haven’t been shaken off at least once.”
Kranitz, 53, in his second season as the Brewers’ pitching coach, shared the same philosophy.
“I knew him pretty well off the field, so he was OK with it,” Kranitz said. “When he really felt like it was something that he didn’t want to throw, if he thought it was not the right situation then he would come out and talk about it. I mean, he was smart.”
Schroeder, who went on to play eight major league seasons with the Brewers and Angels, learned a lot about baseball from Kranitz and other minor league teammates who ate, slept and breathed the sport as they were developing in Double-A and Triple-A.
“Rick’s always been a student of the game,” Schroeder said of the pitching coach who never made the major leagues as a player. “He knew a lot about the game, and he would always talk about the game. We would always talk about it over a couple of beverages afterward.
“Guys would hang out in the locker room — even the crummy locker rooms in the minor leagues, we’d hang out and talk about the game about pitching and about game situations — and you know Rick was always right in there.”
Kranitz remembers Schroeder for his work behind the plate as well as his offensive prowess. In the two seasons they played together, Schroeder hit a total of 37 home runs with 138 RBI.
“The thing about him is that he could hit, too,” Kranitz said. “That was the key, and he could do anything. I remember a game, you know I think it might have been the 13th or 14th inning, and here’s our big hitter coming up to the plate with a runner at third base, and he drops a bunt down for us to win the ballgame. That’s the kind of player he was.”
Schroeder says Kranitz never blew out radar guns with his velocity but managed to find ways to get the job done.
“Best said, Kranny was a crafty right-hander, one of those sinker-slider guys, but I tell you what, he had a little bit of an attitude out there on the mound. When things kinda got hairy, he pulled up his bootstraps, got after it.”
It comes as no surprise to Schroeder that Kranitz wound up as a major league pitching coach.
“If anybody knows the art of pitching, it’s Rick Kranitz. He had to learn it. Because he wasn’t a guy with a big arm, he knew how to pitch, he knew about mechanics, and he helped a lot of the other guys with their mechanics in Triple-A. I remember, kind of did it on the sly, didn’t want to upset the pitching coach.”
Kranitz understands how Schroeder, who “saw the whole field both offensively defensively,” has been a good fit as a TV analyst.
“He does a great job, but he definitely has the face for radio,” said a smiling Kranitz.
“He’s right about that,” Schroeder laughed. “I’ll save my comments about him for the broadcast. I always get the last word.”
“But it’s been a great ride and it’s certainly been a lot of fun hanging out with Kranny.”