Baseball, Family-Style – Brandon Crawford
My blog mate shared his first baseball memory yesterday so it’s my turn. I can’t believe Belt can remember back to when he was three! That’s crazy.
My first memory is pretty fuzzy. I’ve been told I started swinging a bat and throwing a ball as soon as I could walk. But I don’t remember anything before I was about five. I remember a plastic bat, the kind with the big fat barrel. My dad was pitching to me in the back yard of our house in Menlo Park, where we lived before moving to Pleasanton when I was seven.
Unlike Belt’s dad, mine loved baseball. He grew up playing the game, and I’m sure he couldn’t wait to have kids so he could coach them – which he did, all four of us, starting with me, the oldest. (He still coaches my youngest sister’s softball team.) He was a passionate enough fan to have Giants’ season tickets (third-base side) when they played at Candlestick. I remember watching J.T. Snow hit a home run in the playoff game against the Mets in 2000 and getting to walk on the field at the second-to-last game at the ‘Stick.
But back to my early memories. I remember when I was seven, I regularly hit the wiffle ball over our fence and into the next-door-neighbor’s yard. My mom or dad would walk me over to their house and ask for permission to retrieve the ball. I remember setting up home plate by the work shed so I wouldn’t trample my parents’ flowerbeds and their plantings of tomatoes and green beans.
We had a bigger yard in Pleasanton with an ivy-covered hill rising behind the back fence. If the ball landed in the ivy, you had a home run. Home plate was by the back patio. We set up a barricade of lawn chairs to prevent the pitches from hitting the house. First base was the corner of the steps that led up the ivy hill. Second was a bush and third was a pitch of dirt.
I’d play with friends from school or one-on-one against my sister Amy, who’s two years younger than me and a great softball player.
On the weekends, my dad took my sisters and me to a real field and with a real ball and bat. He taught us everything. As I said, he coached my teams up until I was 13 and started high school. But he was still my de facto coach, giving me critiques and advice after games.
It really wasn’t until I signed with the Giants after UCLA that he let go of his coaching role in my life. He figured as a professional I was probably getting all the coaching I needed. But I still ask for his feedback. He has seen my swing more than anyone alive, so he’ll tell me I’m getting my foot down late or my hands are getting back too deep or I’m not being aggressive enough.
I know baseball will always be a connection I have with my dad. It gave us a reason to spend a lot of time together. But when I think about my earliest memories of baseball, it’s more as a family experience than as a father-son one. My dad put in the same time with my three sisters as he did with me. He took their athletic goals just as seriously as he did mine. He had us all out there together.
One day soon I’ll be out there playing catch with my own son or daughter. I’ll be putting a fat-barreled plastic bat into little hands. I’ll be tossing wiffle balls softly over the plate, cheering at even the wildest misses. And new memories will be made.