April 1, 2024

Trey Craft’s Rise Behind the Plate

5.5 min read| Published On: April 1st, 2024|

By Kyle Coppola

Trey Craft’s Rise Behind the Plate

5.5 min read| Published On: April 1st, 2024|

Umatilla’s Game Changer

Umatilla High School senior Trey Craft was one of the top baseball recruits in Florida… until he wasn’t. 

In 2021, a life-altering injury threatened Trey’s baseball career. But he’s no stranger to conquering challenges. 

Trey not only barely survived a premature birth, but he also overcame being placed into a foster care system shortly after entering this world. 

Fortunately, God had a path for Trey and his brother, Tristan, who were both in the foster care system. 

Trey was 3 months old when he was adopted by Chuck and Pamela Craft, who wanted children but were understandably cautious because Pamela had suffered a miscarriage.  

“We thought we might never have children, but then one day God had other plans.” 

That plan involved a second adoption.

A few years after taking Trey into the family, the Crafts adopted his brother, 8-month-old Tristan. 

Trey had discovered his love of sports by the time he turned 5. He grew into a multi-sport athlete, playing football, soccer, baseball, running cross country and basketball. 

In middle school, Trey was one of the best catchers in Lake County. He could catch, hit and steal bases. The University of Miami, Florida State University, Tulane University and other schools showed interest in his baseball prowess.

As a high school freshman at Umatilla, Trey earned the title of defensive player of the year in football and was named most improved in basketball. He couldn’t wait for baseball season.

And then, tragedy struck. In February 2021, Trey suffered a torn ACL and meniscus tear in his left knee during the first quarter of a regional playoff basketball game. 

“We tried to rehab the knee without surgery, but I suffered another setback during the travel baseball season of 2020 in the summertime and ultimately it was found that surgery was the only option,” Trey says.

August 2021 brought another setback. While waiting for his knee to be repaired, Trey contracted COVID-19. He would have to wait over a month for his surgery to be approved. Surgery was rescheduled for September 2021. 

Trey was at an all-time low when he came out of surgery and learned he would never play competitive baseball again.

“Trey was a happy kid and always wanted to be a part of events happening at school and the community,” Pamela says. “When the injury happened there were many times that Trey would just cry in his room and wanted to be alone.” 

Trey was determined to prove the doctors wrong. 

“That was tough to hear. But I never let anyone tell me what I couldn’t do. I decided one day, I know what I wanted,” he says. “I picked myself up and said, ‘I am going to play college baseball and I will make it to the pros.’ So, I began a rehab process that was nine to 12 months, but I pushed hard to get the rehab done quicker and accomplished it in around five to six months. I never let people get in my head and tell me it wasn’t possible.” 

In 2022, Trey missed his sophomore season of baseball at UHS. But he rehabbed in the summer and returned to the diamond for travel ball. The knee held up just fine, and Trey says he had a great season.

Trey credits Chuck Wolf in Oakland, not only for training him during rehab, but also for pushing him to be the best he could be — mentally and physically. 

Before long it was time to return to baseball at Umatilla High School. 

“That first game back at Umatilla was nerve wracking and terrifying. But I was comforted by the community support who came out and showed love to me,” Trey says. “At the end of the day, it was a game, and this is what I grew up on. It’s where I come to make all my problems go away. At the end of the day, I played the game and had fun.” 

His junior year of baseball was lots of fun. Trey hit .380 and led the Bulldogs in runs scored (32), hits (27), RBI (18), and stolen bases (37). He was the No. 1 base stealer in Class 3A District 9, a rare feat considering that catchers are seldom great baserunners. In fact, he was ranked No. 97 nationally in stolen bases. 

Some people told Trey to transfer to a school with a big-time baseball program to improve his chance of getting a college scholarship or a shot at pro ball.

“People ask me, ‘Why do you stay at Umatilla High School? There are so many programs that you could be a part of,’” Trey says. “Being from Umatilla, we were viewed as the punching bag for many, many years. Teams would come in and laugh at us. That hurt but gave me so much motivation… I said to myself, ‘I can build something at Umatilla High,’ and so that’s what I chose to do.” 

Trey credits Umatilla High Athletic Director Patrick Todd, head baseball coach Tanner Clark and Principal Brent Frazier for all they have done for Umatilla High School. 

“Those guys provided everything we needed at the high school to turn our athletics and academics in a positive direction. I will forever be grateful for what they have done,” Trey says.

In 2023, Trey entered the summer travel ball season riding high. Yet the phone didn’t ring. College coaches and baseball scouts that were so interested before his injury were no longer interested… except for one, Coach Jamey Shouppe of Florida A&M University. 

“Coach Shouppe came to a few of my travel games and liked what he saw,” Trey said. “I had toured the school and had the chance to talk to coach Shouppe a bunch. He seemed like a father figure and someone who was committed to me. I decided that seemed like a good fit for me.”

On Nov. 23, 2023, Trey, who had faced and overcome so much, signed a letter of commitment to play for the FAMU Rattlers in 2025. Fittingly, he was surrounded by family, friends and members of the community who helped him earn his opportunity.

“It was a surreal moment sitting at the table putting my FAMU Rattlers hat on as I signed my commitment letter. I thought of all the negative things that happened up till this moment, how I persevered through it all,” Trey says. “I want anyone who is out there to know that if you push hard enough and believe in yourself, anything is possible if you really want to do it. To quote Matthew 19:26, ‘Through God, all things are possible.’”

Trey Craft is one of the very few black catchers in high school baseball. In fact Charles Johnson was the last black catcher on a regular MLB roster 20 years ago in 2004. Trey does not take that lightly “I look around and I know I am a minority in my position. I hope to inspire other young black kids that if you work hard enough in life you can earn a scholarship and play at a high level just like me.” says Trey. 

Trey was wrapping up his summer travel baseball season when he got a phone call from Coach Matt O’Brien, a scout for the Toronto Blue Jays.

“They wanted me to come play for their summer league team in Fort Myers,” Trey says. “I was so appreciative of this opportunity. The feeling of pulling on a Blue Jays uniform was a fulfilling feeling with all the work I put in to get to that point.”

Understandably, Trey’s parents are proud.

“From seeing Trey go from being so positive to seeing him crying tears of sadness in bed thinking his dream might be over, to seeing him come back and get this opportunity means the world,” Pamela says. “Everyone always sees his accomplishments. But no one sees the amount of hard work it took for him to get there.”

Trey says it was a team effort. 

“I want to thank every person who was a part of this journey. My mom, dad and brother, Tristan, who picked me up when I was at my worst,” Trey says. “I ask myself all the time whether things could have gone differently if I didn’t tear my ACL, but at the end of the day, I am happy with where I am and that I can compete with the best.”

“God had a plan for me, and I live everyday thankful to be a part of His journey.” 

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About the Author: Kyle Coppola

Kyle Coppola was born in Newton, Massachusetts and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communications from Curry College in 2016. After traveling to Florida on a family vacation, he decided he could not get enough of the warm weather and made the move from snowy Massachusetts to central Florida 8 years ago.

For the last decade Kyle has gained valuable experience in social media content creation, marketing and sales, writing, video production, sports announcing and even broadcasting for local radio stations, such as FM 102.9 in The Villages and FM 91.5 in Massachusetts. Every year he volunteers at The Villages Charter High School as a play-by-play sports announcer for the football games as well as a public address announcer for the basketball games, including the annual Battle at The Villages Tournament.

Outside the office Kyle is a husband and father to two beautiful girls along with their cat. In his spare time he likes to spend time with his family, travel, play golf and swim. He is also a huge sports junkie and even bigger motorsports fan and loves to attend racing events when he can.

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