Former Citadel teammates reunited as opposing coaches in HIT

Former teammates from The Citadel's 1990 College World Series team Hank Kraft (left) and Phil Tobin are opposing coaches this week in the Hanahan Invitational Tournament. Kraft is the head coach at Hickory High School in Chesapeake, Va., and Tobin is the head coach at Pinewood Prep in Summerville. Photo provided

The 1990 Citadel baseball team is, and likely always will be, the best in school history. That particular Bulldogs squad is the only team in school history to reach the College World Series.

The Citadel finished 1990 with a 46-14 record, won the Southern Conference regular season and tournament titles, had a 26-game winning streak, and notched a win over Cal State-Fullerton in Omaha.

The players from that team were a close-knit unit, and many are still close friends 24 years later.

Two members of that club were recently reunited on the baseball field, this time as opposing head coaches of their respective high school programs.

Phil Tobin, the junior shortstop on the CWS team, is now the head coach at Pinewood Prep in Summerville. Hank Kraft, the sophomore closer in 1990, is the head coach at Hickory High School in Chesapeake, Va. The coaches met on Monday night in a first-round game of the 45th annual Hanahan Invitational Tournament at Cane Bay High School.

Kraft's team won, 15-3.

"He has a really good baseball program and I'm proud of what he has accomplished as a baseball coach," Tobin said. "Hank's team plays the game the way he played it. They play hard and they play the right way. That's how Hank was as a player. He was a closer with a bulldog mentality and he never doubted himself."

Kraft still holds The Citadel's career saves mark with 29, which ranks second in Southern Conference history. Though standing barely 5-8, Kraft was a dominating figure on the mound.

After graduating from The Citadel, Kraft entered the coaching profession and spent seven years as a college coach, working at Princeton, Western Carolina and Virginia Commonwealth. He later settled on high school coaching and is in his fourth season at Hickory, which plays in the talent-rich area of Hampton Roads.

"We talk a lot about doing the little things here, which is what made us so successful at The Citadel," Kraft said. "Sometimes with talented kids, the game comes a little easier and you often forget about the little things that make you a complete player. We did those things at The Citadel and that's why we were able to do what we did that year."

Also at the game Monday night were former Citadel teammates Gettys Glaze and Mike Branham. Kraft says having a chance to bring his team to his old stomping grounds was something he relished.

"It was great to see Phil and some of the other local guys like Gettys and Mike, just great teammates and great friends for life," Kraft said. "It was great those guys were here in the stands and its one of the reasons we wanted to play in this tournament. I have a lot of great memories in this area."

Tobin's fondest memory of Kraft came in the first game of the College World Series against LSU. Tobin dislocated his shoulder diving back to first base on a pickoff attempt. During the play, the LSU first baseman collapsed on Tobin, appearing to do so on purpose, and caused the injury that would force Tobin to miss the rest of the tournament.

Tobin's shoulder was reset and he returned to the dugout later, at which time Kraft told him, "I got your back."

Later in the game, Kraft was on the mound and proceeded to drill the LSU first baseman in the back with a pitch.

"That's how he was," said Tobin. "If he said he had your back, he had your back. I have never forgotten that."