By Jim Hague
Nutley High School baseball standout Jack Kraft already has his college plans laid out, long before he sees a pitch in the upcoming season.
The sweet-swinging left-handed hitting Kraft has signed a national letter of intent to attend Coppin State in Baltimore on a baseball scholarship. Coppin State is an NCAA Division I school.
Kraft said that he made his decision early because a lot of other colleges are already making plans for the 2013 season and completing rosters.
“There are a lot of schools that I talked to that have filled up their rosters already,” Kraft said. “I wanted to wait to see what I did this upcoming season, but if I waited, I might not have another chance to sign. It’s better to have it done earlier than not at all.”
Kraft knew that he wanted to sign with Coppin State after meeting with the coaching staff and visiting the campus.
“The coaches were great and the team was great,” Kraft said. “They also have excellent academic support there. It’s very exciting. Now, I can play this season and not have any pressure at all. I can just go out and do my thing. I don’t have to go out and try to impress other college coaches. It makes things much easier for me.”
Kraft said that it was always his dream to go to a Division I school to play baseball.
“Right from the start, it was what I wanted to do,” Kraft said.
Kraft was asked if he considered any offers from local schools like Seton Hall or Rutgers. Seton Hall is where former Nutley standout Giuseppe Papaccio is currently playing.
“Seton Hall wanted me and Rutgers wanted to talk to me,” Kraft said. “I’ve known (Rutgers head coach) Fred Hill personally for a while. I definitely know I can play at that level, but neither was ready to make a commitment. I couldn’t afford to wait. Suppose something happened, like an injury. Then I would have nothing.”
Kraft recalled a freak play two years ago when he was sliding into third base and was hit in the face with the ball thrown by the catcher, knocking out four teeth.
“I’m fine now, but I can’t go into this season thinking that something like that could happen again,” Kraft said. “Hopefully, it won’t.”
Kraft said that he feels confident he will have a great season.
“I’m definitely ready,” Kraft said. “I know being a Division I scholarship player puts some pressure on me, but I definitely like the reputation and name it’s given me. I don’t want to go out there and slack off. I want to be an example for others. We definitely can have an amazing year this year, if our fall team is any indication. It’s all about how much hard work we put into it.”
And how well the Coppin State-bound Kraft hits the ball this spring.