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Flashback Fridays: Kranitz Earns Championship

Former Knights Pitching Coach Wins World Series with Braves
November 5, 2021

The Atlanta Braves are 2021 World Series champions!

The Atlanta Braves are 2021 World Series champions!

In what was an exciting World Series from start-to-finish, the Atlanta Braves beat the Houston Astros in six games this season to win the franchise’s first championship trophy since 1995. While many of Atlanta’s players -- and even manager Brian Snitker -- have come through Uptown Charlotte as opponents over the years, there is only one person in the Atlanta clubhouse that once wore a Charlotte Knights jersey. That person is Atlanta Braves pitching coach, Rick Kranitz.

As a player, Kranitz was drafted three times. First, the California native was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the third round of the 1977 MLB January Draft-Regular Phase. That same year, he was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round of the 1977 MLB June Draft-Secondary Phase.

The Milwaukee Brewers selected Kranitz in the fourth round of the 1979 MLB June Draft. A product of Oklahoma State University during his third and final selection year, Kranitz went on to spend parts of five seasons as a pitcher with the Brewers -- all in the minors. He posted an impressive 13-7 record with a 3.64 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) with the Holyoke Millers of the Double-A Eastern League.

After five seasons in Milwaukee's minor league system, Kranitz worked his way to the Chicago Cubs' organization, where he spent 1984 to 2005 with the franchise in several different capacities. He made his coaching debut in 1984 as a player/coach with Pikeville in the Appalachian League and spent one more season as a player coach in 1985 with Winston-Salem. After two seasons in Winston-Salem (1985-1986), one in Wytheville and two in Peoria -- all as a pitching coach, he made his way up the organizational ladder and found himself in a brand-new ballpark for the 1990 season.

The Charlotte Knights were the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs from 1989 to 1992. For all four of those years, the team played in Fort Mill, SC. In 1989 -- the first season as an affiliate of the Cubs -- the Knights played in a temporary facility in Fort Mill while “The Castle” was being built. The Knights moved into the team’s new home in 1990 and played at Knights Stadium in Fort Mill until the 2013 season. The team relocated to Uptown Charlotte in 2014, moving into Truist Field.

While the Knights were affiliated with the Chicago Cubs for those four seasons, several future Cubs made their way through the organization. Players such as Rick Wilkins, Frank Castillo, Jim Bullinger, Heathcliff Slocumb and Steve Trachsel, to name a few. During this time, Kranitz, who recently helped guide the Braves to a World Series Championship this year, was the pitching coach of the Knights. He spent two seasons in Fort Mill with the Knights (1990 and 1991).

The Knights played home games at Knights Stadium in Fort Mill, SC from 1990 to 2013. Tommy Viola

The Knights opened Knights Stadium in 1990 and went on to a 65-79 record during the ballpark's inaugural season. Kranitz guided the team’s pitching staff to a 3.73 ERA that year. The team’s leader in wins was Chuck Mount, who went 11-9 with a 4.15 ERA in 40 games (20 starts). For Kranitz, it was his seventh season as a coach in the minors.

A year later, he was back with the Knights to lead the team once again as pitching coach. The 1991 Knights won more games, going 74-70 that season. RHP Tim Parker was the team leader in wins with 11 and the team's pitching staff posted a 3.75 ERA that season under the watch of Kranitz. It was his final season with the Knights, however.

Kranitz moved on with the Cubs the following year when the Knights changed affiliations to the Cleveland Indians. The 1993 saw the Knights move up to Triple-A and Kranitz also moved up to Triple-A, heading to Iowa to guide the Iowa Cubs as pitching coach. He continued to move around with the Cubs in different capacities over the years. From 1984 to 2005, he helped the Cubs in the pitching department at many levels. In all, he spent 22 years with the Cubs.

Kranitz has spent parts of 17 seasons in the majors as a coach. He made his major league coaching debut in 2002 with the Cubs as the team's bullpen coach. Four years later, he became the pitching coach of the Florida Marlins. For his efforts that season, Kranitz was named Baseball America's Major League Coach of the Year. He spent one more season in Florida before moving on to Baltimore for three seasons (2008-2010).

Kranitz later moved on again, this time to a familiar organization. After first accepting a job with the Houston Astros as pitching coordinator on November 1, 2010, he decided to join the Milwaukee Brewers 14 days later as pitching coach. Kranitz, who replaced Rick Peterson in Milwaukee, was back with the organization that drafted him.

After spending five more seasons in Milwaukee's organization as the team's pitching coach, he went on to Philadelphia. He spent three seasons with the Phillies in three different roles as part of the team's big league club. In 2016, he was bullpen coach. A year later, he was the team's assistant pitching coach. In 2018, he was promoted to pitching coach.

On December 6, 2018, Kranitz was hired to join Snitker's staff in Atlanta as pitching coach.

Snitker had this to say about his new pitching coach: "I'm thrilled to add Rick to our coaching staff. "Right from the start of the interview process, Rick stood out with his knowledge, credentials and experience. He has had a lot of success developing young talent, and he is going to have a big impact getting the most out of all of our pitchers."

During his first season with the Braves in 2019, the team won 97 games and was led by some solid young pitching. The team once again saw its young pitchers continue to develop under Kranitz in 2020, going to the postseason for the second consecutive year. Youngsters like Max Fried and Ian Anderson thrived under Kranitz during the shortened season. The development of those youngsters, along with the emergence of Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly, helped Atlanta's rotation immensely in 2021. Add in the team's solid bullpen arms, and the Braves finished with a team ERA of 3.88 in 2021.

Since making his debut as a pitcher in Milwaukee's system in 1979, to winning a World Series with the Braves this year, Kranitz has spent a lifetime in the game of baseball. With over 1,000 wins under his belt as a coach in the majors and over 40 years in the game professionally, he now has a World Series ring. Congrats, Rick. It's nice to see a former Knights coach thriving in the majors.