In high school, he wasn’t a standout player.
In college, he failed in his bid as a walk-on.
In the pros, one of his first jobs was as a part-time bat boy.
None of that, however, deterred Nick Krall from fulfilling a life-long goal.
The 1995 York Catholic High School graduate recently landed a dream job with a Major League Baseball organization.
Last Thursday, the 40-year-old Krall was promoted to general manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
“This is the job I always wanted — to work in a baseball front office,” Krall said.
Getting to that point has been an arduous journey up the baseball ladder.
York County start: It started here in York County. He attended St. Rose of Lima and York Catholic, catching for the Fighting Irish and several teams in the Central League, including Shiloh, the York Yankees and Jefferson. By his own admission, he was far from a star.
Like many York County baseball fans, he grew up following the Baltimore Orioles, and one of his favorite O’s players was pitcher Ben McDonald, who twice led Louisiana State to the College World Series.
Because of McDonald, Krall also became an LSU fan and eventually tried to walk on with Tigers. His senior season, he was one of the last walk-ons cut from the team. That team went on to win the national title.
“That whole experience changed the way I did things as a kid. It just broadened by scope,” Krall said. “… It was a real eye-opening experience, to see how good those guys really were.”
Getting into pro ball: After graduating from LSU, Krall got an internship for the New Jersey Cardinals of the New York-Penn League, and later joined the Oakland Athletics in 2001, working in the baseball operations department, where he got to do a little bit of everything, including spending some time with the A’s as a bat boy.
His time with Oakland turned out to be one of the great learning experiences of Krall’s career. He worked under legendary GM Billy Beane during the “Moneyball” season of 2002, when a low-budget Oakland team improbably won 103 games, including a 20-game winning streak, and captured the American League West title, all while using a sophisticated sabermetric approach toward scouting and analyzing players.
Since that time, using analytics has become all the rage for many MLB franchises.
In 2003, Krall landed a job with the Reds, where he slowly worked his way up through the team’s ranks before getting promoted from assistant GM to GM last week.
Learning the game in York: Krall said his years in York County helped prepare him for his baseball career.
“My dad (Steve) played for Vikings (in the Central League) when I was a little kid,” Krall said. “I grew up going to games. I just really enjoyed baseball.”
Other than his father, Krall said one of his top local baseball mentors was his manager at Shiloh, Steve Gilbert.
“I knew Steve since I was a kid,” Krall said. “He was looking for some young kids to sit the bench for Shiloh. I got six at-bats my first season, but it was a great learning experience being around the older guys. The whole team was great to me. I was just a kid, but they helped me get better and look at the game differently.”
Krall said he still returns to the York area regularly and still has many relatives here, including his father and grandmother.
Another Irish grad in MLB: Remarkably, one his friends from his York County days also has a high-ranking MLB job. York Catholic grad Bryan Minniti is an assistant GM with the Philadelphia Phillies.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Krall said of having two Irish grads with significant baseball positions. “Bryan and I have known each other since we were kids. We rode the bus together at one point. We became fast friends and we always talked about working in baseball. It was definitely my dream, and he wanted to do it as well, and it became reality. He’s a great guy.”
"Global thinking:" In his new role with Reds, Krall said he will do “global thinking for every (baseball) department, rather than specific-department thinking.”
Krall will continue to work under Dick Williams, who remains the Reds’ president of baseball operations.
Despite struggles, he's optimistic about Reds: The Reds have struggled in recent years, losing at least 94 games each of the past three seasons and finishing last in the National League Central. They are 14-28 this season entering Tuesday’s action.
Still, Krall is optimistic about the team’s future.
“We have a top-10 farm system and some kids who are getting close to being pretty good players,’ Krall said. “… We need to make some tweaks, but we’re not as far away as folks think.”
Ultimate goal: Krall, ultimately, has one simple goal left in his baseball career.
“It’s winning a World Series,” he said. “That might sound cliché, but that’s our goal. We just need to pull together and continue this rebuilding.”
To some, that may seem like a pipe dream. After all, the Reds have been buried in the NL Central cellar for several years now.
Krall, however, knows from first-hand experience that baseball dreams sometimes do come true.
Steve Heiser is sports editor for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.