Jack Kruger only spent one season at Mississippi State but certainly made it a memorable one.
The Calabasas, California native helped the Bulldogs win their first Southeastern Conference championship since 1989 and made a lot of memories along the way.
“I loved it,” Kruger said. “I had a great team, great friends, a great church family and great coaches. The South is a lot different than California and is a nice change of pace. I really enjoyed being here. Southern people have the hospitality that you always hear about and that’s no joke. It’s a real thing and I’m grateful for the welcoming I received here at State.”
Kruger’s time in Starkville came to an end Friday as he agreed to a $395,000 contract with the Los Angeles Angels after being drafted with the 606th overall pick in the 20th round. It was the final day he could sign professionally before the deadline to return to school.
Kruger tweeted a thank you to the maroon and white faithful after announcing he had signed with the Angels.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder started 54 of the 56 games in which he played this season batting .344 with 19 doubles, eight home runs, 40 RBIs and six stolen bases.
Kruger carried a lot of the load offensively for MSU early on in the season as a designated hitter while unable to catch due to shoulder injury. He was hitting .511 after the first three series and his average never dipped below .325 the entire season.
“Baseball is a funny game,” Kruger said. “I don’t think I’ve met a hitter that has always been hot. The great part about our team is that we were extremely deep and never relied on one guy.”
Kruger credits some of his success with the Bulldogs to having played one season at the Division I level at Oregon in 2014.
“It helped a ton,” Kruger said. “There’s no real way to describe how to come into a really good conference right out of high school. It’s very tough for a freshman to do. Playing at Oregon gave me a taste of Division I. I learned a lot. There was a big learning curve but I was able to carry a lot of what I learned there over to here.”
Kruger made 17 starts for the Ducks, hitting .208 with a pair of doubles, a homer and six RBIs as a freshman before transferring. He was able to reunite with some of his former Oregon teammates when the Ducks visited Mississippi State for a three-game series in March.
The Bulldogs swept the series which gave Kruger just a bit of personal satisfaction.
“It was sweet,” Kruger said. “I know a lot of guys over there and there were no hard feelings. I have a ton of friends on that team and it was great to see them again and host them but it’s great to get a win against your old team.”
Kruger’s journey to MSU and onto professional baseball with the Angels was a winding one. He signed out of high school to play at the United States Military Academy but was medically disqualified on the first day of his arrival.
From West Point, he played one season at Oregon and then landed at Orange Coast College in California. He helped lead the Pirates to the California Community College Athletic Association championship and was even named MVP of the state tournament after belting a home run in the title game.
Kruger hit .310 as a sophomore with 10 doubles, 23 RBIs and six steals while offers from around the country. He narrowed his list to Mississippi State, Baylor, Indiana, Connecticut, USC and San Diego and felt the recruiting process was much easier having gone through it before.
“There were many things my family and I would’ve done different had we known what we knew the second time the first time,” Kruger said. “There are a lot of good players who don’t end up going places because they really don’t understand the recruiting process. It was frustrating but the second time was a lot easier because I understood how it all worked better.”