By Rick Assad
Opportunities come and go, but the key is to take advantage when it does.
Dylan Kramer was on the Burbank High varsity baseball team for two years, but only played this past season where he batted cleanup and played left field.
That in itself is somewhat remarkable, given Kramer, who plans on attending Los Angeles Valley College or Los Angeles Mission College and wants to play in the outfield, hasn’t played the game too many years.
Kramer’s role on the team was substantial as the Bulldogs went 13-10 overall and 7-7 for fifth place in the Pacific League.
“Dylan was a young man that came to us with very little experience and transformed himself through hard work into a solid ball player,” longtime Burbank coach Bob Hart said.
Hart also liked the fact that beside hard work, Kramer, who batted .262 that included 15 singles and a home run, possessed a strong body.
“Blessed with an athletic body, he improved steadily through the course of two years and was a two-year varsity guy,” he noted. “His character is his biggest attribute and is someone who shows up, works hard every day and does the extra things to make himself better. He will be missed.”
With one true ace on the hill in senior Jimmy Cafferty, and a solid second arm in sophomore Colby Bette, plus a number of talented players, Burbank made the CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs and advanced to the quarterfinals where the team lost to Crean Lutheran 2-1.
Cafferty spoke highly of Kramer and appreciated his work ethic and determination.
“Dylan is one of my favorite guys to hang out with and he is the ultimate teammate,” he said of the hard-swinging right-handed batter. “He always puts the team before himself and he had a great year this season.”
Kramer flourished under a positive vibe that the other players generated.
“I think our season was so remarkable because of the family-like atmosphere we made together,” he said. “Everyone on the team treated each other like brothers and pushed ourselves so we could perform the best we could for the family we made.”
In order to be successful, a team cannot get sidetracked and getting out of the gate with a head of steam is always desired.
“We practiced hard and got locked in from an early time in our season,” Kramer said. “We thrived to be the best on the field, and we trained off the field to keep our self-esteem as high as possible.”
Trying not to do too much can lead to good results and Kramer wanted to stay focused and not rushed.
“I’m always thinking about trying to stay relaxed and have some fun. It’s a game for a reason and when I’m relaxed and doing my thing, that’s when I’ll be at my best,” he said. “This goes for before and during my games. And after I just focus on the positives and work on what I need to improve on.”
Because baseball players fail about two-thirds of the time at-bat, it’s essential to remain clear-minded and having a strong mental approach often leads to being patient.
“As long as I was working on whatever I thought I wasn’t smooth enough at, I knew that I’d get to as close to perfection as possible,” Kramer said. “It keeps me from stressing about being perfect in the moment, knowing that if I keep working at everything, I will be great.”
Enjoying himself was another reason Kramer flourished with the Bulldogs this campaign.
“I really just tried to focus on having fun,” he said. “If you’re in a slump, you’re already down, so the only way from there is up. So relax and have some fun.”
Don’t make one game, even if it’s against a very good team, be too stressful. It’s important to enjoy the journey.
“I treated every game the same,” Kramer admitted. “I planned on balling out in each one. If you think that you’re not going to win before the game, then you already lost.”
UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden, who was first and foremost a teacher, won a record 10 NCAA championships during his 27 seasons at the helm in Westwood.
The Bruins have played at Pauley Pavilion since 1965, and it features retractable seats making it appear to be a classroom.
For Wooden, who taught English at the high school level, was a teacher at heart, even if it happened to be basketball.
And so it is with Hart and baseball.
“I think I learned patience, confidence, and work ethic. I think I learned many life lessons from baseball,” Kramer said. “It’s hard to point out just a few. But I feel that baseball has truly prepared me for the life ahead even if it’s just a game. I think baseball’s more than that.”
When Kramer was on the diamond, there were games that stood apart.
“Definitely our games against Arcadia, Burroughs, and El Rancho because those were easily the most important, close, and entertaining games of the year,” he said. “And each one we pulled through and won the game.”
Burbank upset the eventual league champion Arcadia 9-2 on the road.
The Bulldogs then blanked the Bears 2-0 at home and knocked off visiting El Rancho 4-2 in a second-round game.
Kramer added: “The highlights of our season were definitely our wins over Arcadia, Burroughs and all our playoff victories,” he noted.
Now that the baseball season is over, Kramer realizes its deeper meaning.
“I’m going to miss just playing catch and talking with my brothers,” he said. “It’s the simplest things that I’m going to miss the most, and I’d do anything just to have a few more weeks with them.”
While the high school baseball experience is over and done with for Kramer, the college experience awaits, and if he has anything to say about the matter, it’s also going to be fun.