Hicksville native Kraig Binick who bats righty and throws lefty, steps to the plate during an Aug. 11 home game in which the Bluefield Orioles took on Elizabethton Twins.
For many young men, the dream of playing major league baseball is only an aspiration, but for 22-year-old Kraig Binick, it recently became a dream come true. In June, the Hicksville native, a senior at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) where he played for the Bears baseball team, was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 27th round of Major League Baseball's First Year Player Draft. He is currently playing center field for the Bluefield Orioles, Baltimore's rookie minor league affiliate based out of West Virginia.
Although NYIT is not typically known for its baseball players, Kraig managed to make his mark throughout his nearly four years with the Bears and, during the 2007 season, led the school in every offensive category, recording a .406 batting average with 84 hits, 58 runs scored, 18 doubles, five triples, 34 RBI and 32 stolen bases in 36 attempts. He also ranked 13th nationally in batting average, 16th in stolen bases, 20th in runs scored, 25th in slugging percentage, 37th in triples and 61st in doubles.
"Kraig certainly deserves this opportunity. NYIT has had a number of players drafted by major league ball clubs [but] Kraig is unquestionably the best center fielder who ever played for NYIT. We all look forward to his rapid progress in the Orioles organization," stated NYIT head baseball coach Bob Hirschfield.
Kraig, who was named NCAA Division Independent Baseball Player of the Year for 2007, also established a new record for career hits at NYIT when he led off the bottom of the first inning with a solo home run against Delaware State on May 12. In addition, he broke current assistant coach and NYIT Hall of Famer Ray Giannelli's record of 254 hits, which was set from 1985-1988.
Nothing, however, could prepare him for how it felt to step out on a "real" field for the first time. "The feeling is unexplainable. All the hard work you put in day in and day out had finally paid off. I knew that I didn't just represent myself but also my family and all the coaches who had put their time and effort into my dream," Kraig said, adding that none of this would have been possible without the support of his family. "Ever since I was a little kid, my mom and dad just let me play," he said. "They have supported me whether I succeeded or failed. The most important thing is they always believed in me."
As a member of the Bluefield Orioles, Kraig wears uniform No. 14 and, like most professional athletes, the number bears significance. "I wore number 4 in college. One of my best friends, Scott Sloane, had been my workout buddy and my throwing partner every day for high school baseball and he wore number 4," said Kraig. "He died tragically in a car crash on his way to school. We were going to be in the outfield together. When NYIT was giving out uniforms on the first day I had to go last because I was a freshman. The last jersey left was number 4." He continued, "The Bluefield Orioles don't have a number 4 but [if they did] I would wear it. So I took number 14 and my locker number is 4."
Kraig's mother, Veronica, said her son's love for baseball was apparent when he was around 2 or 3 and would play with older brothers, Kenny and Kris. Veronica said her first memory of him on the field came a few years later, when Kraig was about 5 or 6 years old. "The coaches would place the younger kids in the outfield. One day our team was winning by some ridiculous score so they decided to move the little guys to the infield. The batter hit a pop up to third base where Kraig was playing and he caught it on a fly, stepped on the bag and made his first double play. Everyone was jumping up and down!" Veronica said, adding, "He was so excited. I was so excited. I ran onto the field, picked Kraig up and gave him a big kiss!"
A New York Yankees fan, Kraig grew up learning about baseball and Mickey Mantle from his father. "We would watch biographies of him all the time. I never actually saw him play but to my father and me, [Mantle] represented baseball. He could run, hit, throw for average and power and he played hard," he said. When asked which baseball player he is inspired the most by, Kraig, true to the pinstripes, said New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. "He shows class and respects the game. He has the type of talent that wins baseball games," Kraig said.
As a youngster, Kraig played for Hicksville Pal but his love for sports was not limited to just the diamond. Kraig engrossed himself in all sports, playing for St. Ignatius CYO, the Levittown Red Devils and Long Island Junior Soccer League. After moving up from Lee Avenue, Kraig attend Hicksville Middle School and was a member of the wrestling team. He went on to attend Chaminade High School, where he was a member of the football and baseball teams. During the spring and summer months, Kraig was a member of three different baseball teams, the Long Island Federation of Amateur Baseball League and a participant in the Empire State Games.
Kraig told the Hicksville Illustrated News that his first baseball memory dates back to when he was about 4 and, during a game on the Lee Avenue Elementary School field, the coach asked him to play right field. "My coach had to pick me up and lift me to right field because I didn't know where right field was!" Kraig said.
Today, Kraig, who bats right and throws left, is most comfortable in center field. And the position seems to be working well for him with Bluefield where he has, as of press time, played in 60 games and is batting .300. His on base percentage (OBP) is .407 and includes 5 homeruns, 28 walks, 31 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and 50 runs scored.
In terms of her son's success, Veronica said she and her husband, Kenny, are "elated." "We know how hard Kraig worked at this. He put his whole heart and soul into baseball and he has such determination. We are just so proud of him and pray for the best for him," she said.
Although unsure as to when he will be brought up or who he will end up playing for, Kraig believes that while it is the dream of many players to "wear a Yankees uniform," he would love playing for any major league team. "As long as I'm wearing a professional jersey I'll be all right," he said, adding. "I will always be thankful to the Baltimore Orioles for giving me a chance to fulfill my dream."