For a young outfielder, few experiences can top meeting Willie Mays. Evan Crawford certainly can attest to that. After being selected by the Giants in the ninth round of the 2009 draft, Crawford had the chance to meet Mays at a prospects workout camp in San Francisco. Mays spoke with "about 25" of the Giants' newest draftees.
="He's a great guy," Crawford said. "One of the things he said was that as a centerfielder, you have to be the leader of the outfield that moves everybody around. He said that when he played, he watched and paid attention so much that he knew where people were going to hit the ball."
While Mays is one of Crawford's baseball heros, he models his game after Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen.
Crawford played in the Giants' and Cubs' organizations, winning a championship in each system. His Giants championship came in 2009 with Class A Salem-Keizer and his Cubs title came in 2011 with Class A Daytona.
After starting this season with the River City Rascals in the Independent Frontier League, Crawford was traded to the Ducks on Aug. 2 for outfielder Jon Myers. The Ducks also acquired pitcher Tommy Organ and a player to be named.
Since joining the Ducks, Crawford was hitting .421 in 38 at-bats entering Thursday. He had driven in three runs and scored eight. Crawford hit .238 in 57 games with River City.
After playing seven consecutive games, and 10 of their last 13, against the Somerset Patriots, the Ducks are hosting the Camden Riversharks this weekend at Bethpage Ballpark. The finale of the four-game series will be played Sunday night. Without an off day, the Ducks travel to Texas to play a six-game set with the Sugar Land Skeeters. Sugar Land was tied with Southern Maryland atop the Freedom Division entering Thursday.
How does it feel to be playing a team other than Somerset?
It's nice to play another opponent, freshen things up a bit. I think we were tired of seeing Somerset. It was a few games in a row. We wanted to compete against somebody else.
What was your first reaction when you were told you were being traded to the Ducks?
It was an unexpected trade but I was excited, to say the least. I got the opportunity to come to a new area, a new place and a different league and continue the season . . . I wasn't aware that I was going to get traded but I don't think anyone is ever aware. There was nothing on River City's end, or anybody else's end, that made me think I was getting traded.
Why do you think you've hit so well since being traded to the Ducks?
I'm seeing the ball well. Whenever I get the opportunity, I'm ready to perform. As a backup player, you don't have any pressure to perform, so I'm just relaxed and going out there and playing my game.
What will it take for this team to make the playoffs?
More of the same, just in a more consistent manner. Especially when it comes to having good at-bats, good outings from our starters, and help from the bullpen. As long as we can remain consistent throughout these games and not [taper]off toward the end, then we'll be fine. We'll have a great shot to make the playoffs.
You've played on two championship teams. Does this team have the necessary makeup to win a title?
I definitely believe so. There's a lot of leaders and a lot of guys that have been around and done big things. Everyone knows we can win if we play to the best of our ability.
What's the biggest difference between the Frontier League and the Atlantic League?
There's not too much difference. Once you start playing professional baseball, you have to be competitive wherever you are. But, the games in the Frontier League last a little bit longer than the ones [in the Atlantic League].
Do you like the pace-of-play rules implemented by the Atlantic League at the beginning of the month?
I do. It gets the game going and that's good.