ON SPORTS: UHV's Kruse makes most of two years in Victoria
The lights were out at Riverside Stadium and the parking lot was almost empty.
But the ping of a bat could be heard from a dimly lit Lowe Field.
"I've always tried to be the hardest worker," Chad Kruse said. "If things don't go the way I want them to, I don't want to look back and say I could have done more and of course, I could have. I feel like I've put in a lot of work, but I still don't feel like I've done enough."
UHV coach Terry Puhl chuckles when asked about Kruse's work habits.
"It's almost to the point where you can work too much," Puhl said. "You can't fault him for his work ethic. I've never had a player that had any better."
Kruse's love for baseball and his willingness to work have endeared him to Victoria fans, who have watched him for the last two seasons as a member of the Jaguars and the Victoria Generals of the Texas Collegiate League.
Kruse's stay in the city will end with his participation in the Association of Independent Institutions tournament at Riverside Stadium followed shortly by his graduation from UHV with a degree in business management.
"I've played so many games here the last two years, it's definitely depressing to think that it's coming to an end," he said. "If we finish on a high note, it will make it easier."
Kruse has done his part to make his teams better since joining the Generals for the 2011 season, and transferring from Sam Houston State to UHV for the 2012 season.
The New Braunfels Canyon graduate who attended Richland College had 77 hits to set a TCL record during his first season with the Generals. He followed up with 67 hits last season.
"He was our best player for two straight years," said Blake Koch, the Generals vice president and general manager. "He's arguably the best player ever to wear a Generals uniform. He embodies everything the Generals stand for. He's a great kid, a great ballplayer, and he's great with his teammates and coaches."
Kruse leads the Jaguars in average (.386), hits (51), triples (4), doubles (11), slugging percentage (.530), hit by pitches (11), on-base percentage (.481) and stolen bases (15).
But statistics don't begin to define what Kruse's leadership has meant to a team that has gone through its share of peaks and valleys.
"You need players that have been around a little bit and played at a higher level," Puhl said. "He understands the game and he gives good direction to the younger players."
Kruse doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk. He has played every position but first base or pitcher in his two seasons with the Jaguars.
"It's nice that coach Puhl can make the lineup and wherever there's a spot that needs to be filled than he can throw me over there," Kruse said. "I've been around the game a long time so it's nice to help the guys with a couple of things they're doing."
Dylan Blaha came to UHV from Weimar and immediately moved into the starting lineup at shortstop as a freshman.
He credits Kruse for helping him smooth the transition from high school to college ball.
"He's up here for practice every day about an hour early," Blaha said. "He's helped me out a lot at shortstop and with my hitting. He gave me some lessons. He's taught me how to approach the ball at the plate and what I'm going to do in the future playing ball."
Kruse wants to continue playing baseball next season, whether it's with a major league organization or an independent team.
But his current focus is squarely on the upcoming tournament.
"I've worked so hard and so have my teammates," he said. "I owe it to them to put my full effort toward keeping this team going."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.