Unlike his dad, Jack Krauel takes crack at baseball over tennis

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Toby Krauel (left) is the mens tennis coach at Portland State. He says son Jack could play for the Vikings, but the Central Catholic High junior prefers baseball, starts at shortstop for the Rams, and dreams of a college career on the diamond.Portland State men’s tennis coach Toby Krauel recalls the time last year when he and son Jack watched a TV analysis of two of the best in their respective sports.

On one side of the screen, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia split step before retrieving a ground ball. On the other side, Rafael Nadal used almost the same motion before returning a serve.

The comparison hit home with both Krauels.

“That’s like Jack,” Toby said. “He’s got excellent footwork in tennis when he split steps. And when you watch Jack play baseball, he split steps before every pitch, which is very unusual.”

Krauel, a Central Catholic junior, opted two years ago to forgo what likely would’ve been a fruitful high school tennis career in favor of pursuing his dream of playing college ball. Now, he’s the starting shortstop for the Rams baseball team.

Krauel says he chose baseball because he wanted to

experience more of a team atmosphere.

“It’s not that I like baseball more than tennis. I thought I would have a better high school experience playing baseball,” he says. “The baseball team is more of a collective family.”

When he entered the high school ranks, the Rams baseball and tennis coaches were tugging him in two directions. Eventually, they compromised and told Krauel he could play baseball half the year and tennis the other half.

Krauel declined the offer, deciding to play baseball full time.

This year, CC’s tennis coach asked Krauel if he would play the minimal matches to qualify for district in hopes of representing Rams tennis at state. However, the conflicting schedules didn’t work for him.

“I decided not to, because in baseball, if you miss practice or a game, you can’t play in the next game,” he says.

Toby Krauel says Jack is the ideal doubles player, possessing a monster 110 mph serve and exemplary volley skills at the net.

Also, earlier this year, Krauel and Rams freshman Joey Shwartz defeated Grant juniors Cameron and Kyle Chin, who made it to the second round of state in 6A doubles last year, in a doubles match.

“Jack’s a very good doubles player,” his father says.

Toby Krauel says Jack could be a solid addition to Portland State’s tennis team.

“He could really help our team at the bottom of our lineup,” the elder Krauel says. “If he had continued training for tennis, like he was on the path, there’s no doubt he would play Division I tennis.”

However, if Jack ever decides to play collegiate tennis, it will be after he takes his crack at college baseball.

“If I don’t like where I end up or if I don’t get offered anywhere, I wouldn’t mind playing college tennis,” Jack says. “It’s my fallback.”

For now, Jack is all-in on his team’s journey toward the state playoffs. The Rams are 16-3, but their three losses came when they were either shorthanded eight players because of the CC/Jesuit brawl or when an ace pitcher was out of town.

“They were three losses that if we would’ve had our full staff, we would’ve won,” Jack says.

He is confident but cautious about his team’s chances to make a deep run in the Class 6A postseason.

“I’m not going to jinx anything,” he says, adding, “we’ve got a good team and good pitchers who can lead us there, and a good hitting lineup.”

Though Toby Krauel taught his son how to play tennis at age 4, it is Jack’s mom, who is the president of Wilshire Riverside Little League and played softball at Valley Catholic High, who gets credit for his baseball skills.

“She likes to say she played catch with me when I was younger,” Jack says.

Toby says his son’s dedication to mechanics makes him good at both sports.

“He’s very, very good mechanically,” Toby says. “In either sport, he’s comfortable adapting. If I tweak something in his forehand or if his coach tweaks something in his stance, he gets it right away.”

Though he extensively helps Jack with his tennis game, Toby’s only advice for Jack’s baseball development is to swing a broom at night. Because the broom weighs more than a baseball bat, it helps strengthen a ballplayer’s wrists and hands.

Jack doesn’t always heed his dad’s advice, but it has worked like a charm.

A couple of weeks ago, “I didn’t swing the broom Sunday night and went 0 for 2. On Monday, I swung it, and on Tuesday I went 3 for 3,” he says. “I should probably do it more often. It really helps with your bat speed.”

Toby empathizes with his son’s spring sports conundrum. When Toby attended Monterey Peninsula College (Calif.), he played fall baseball, but in the spring, he had to choose between tennis and baseball.

He chose tennis, and the following year, he began his three-year tennis career at the University of Portland.

“I felt like I could go further in tennis,” Toby says. “I’m glad I did because I had a great experience playing at UP.”

by: COURTESY OF CENTRAL CATHOLIC HIGH - Jack Krauel, junior shortstop, clowns around during a team photo shoot of the Central Catholic High baseball team.Once he finished college, Toby became the tennis coach for Gonzaga while working diligently in law school, preparing to pass the bar. After earning his law degree in 1994, he continued coaching Gonzaga until 2000, while practicing law.

From 2001 to 2006, he hung up his racquet and became the chief criminal prosecutor of Cowlitz County. In 2006, he also served as an adjunct law professor at Lewis & Clark College.

But he decided to go back into coaching.

“I wasn’t fulfilled, and I wasn’t doing what I love,” he says. “I traded one court for a better court.”

After spending a few years as tennis pro at West Hills Racquet & Fitness Club and coaching Willamette’s tennis team, last fall Krauel accepted an offer to become the PSU men’s coach.

“I love what I’m doing now, and I’m very happy,” he says.

Though Jack says he liked his law and order class at Central Catholic, he is hesitant to follow in his father’s footsteps after seeing how hard his dad worked.

“Seeing my dad doing notes all night, wow, that looked like a lot of work. I don’t know about that,” he says.

Jack says he enjoys a wide range of classes, including calculus, chemistry, religion and English. Jack has a 3.96 GPA, including a 4.18 his sophomore year.

“My freshman year, I started off slow and then picked it up,” he says.

Jack says his typical day includes school, baseball practice, homework, then playing with his little brother, Gus.

“I work hard in the classroom and on the baseball field,” he says.

Jack’s sister Katy is on the UP women’s tennis team, and his brother Gus, 6, is a good tennis and baseball player for his age.

“I’m super proud of our older daughter, Jack and Gus,” Toby says.

Despite Toby’s extensive tennis background and current coaching job, he isn’t upset that his son chose baseball.

“It’s whatever makes him happy and wherever his heart lies,” Toby says, “and his mom feels the same way. We support him.”

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