A Lesson from Draft Day – Brandon Crawford

Last week’s amateur draft got me thinking about my own draft day. It’s such an exciting time because, really, you’ve been waiting for it your whole life.

I was at the end of my junior year at UCLA. I think our baseball team was finished with regionals, but the semester wasn’t yet over. I still had to take finals. Believe me, I wasn’t thinking about my grades or my GPA. I just wanted to get started on my baseball career.

There are all these websites and experts that predict in what rounds players will get drafted. Most had me going in the second round, even though I struggled that season. My agent thought I’d go in the first two rounds, too. That’s what we were expecting.

My father flew down to Los Angeles from Pleasanton. He, Jalynne, my best friend Matt Jones –who went to elementary school, middle school, high school and UCLA with me and later was best man at my wedding —  gathered with me in Dad’s hotel room. The first round was televised, so we watched that round then switched to my computer.

The second round came and went. I wasn’t picked.

Then the third round.

I was really disappointed.

It’s not just that the money goes down with each round. But you assume that the lower you go, the lower the organization’s expectations. You assume the team won’t pay as much attention to you. You think it will take you longer to get to the big leagues. I later found out that isn’t true. But at the time, you think the worst.

There’s some ego in there, too. You want to be a top pick.

Early in the fourth round, the Minnesota Twins called.

They asked if I’d be willing to sign for a certain amount of money. I said I didn’t know. We were talking back and forth. Then on my computer screen I saw, “The San Francisco Giants select Brandon Crawford.’’

“Sorry,’’ I told the Twins. “I just got drafted.’’

I had no clue the Giants were going to draft me.

We celebrated that night, of course. I was excited to be drafted by my childhood team. It was amazing. But in the back of my mind, I was still disappointed and worried about my future.

Now I know how shortsighted and, frankly, ignorant that was. My career was not going to be made or ruined by what round I was selected.

It’s like wanting to get into a particular college or land a particular job. If you don’t get your first pick, or your second or third, you have to figure out how to make the most of where you are. It’s up to you to learn what you can and build on that.

In the end it didn’t matter where I was drafted — I’m here now in the big leagues. Things can always work out no matter where you start. You just might have to take a different path than you expected.

On another note, I’ve written about my fielding struggles, so now I’ll tell you that I feel that I’m getting back to normal. Infield coach Ron Wotus helped by telling me a week or so ago to follow my instincts. We always went over detailed scouting reports on opposing batters and I’d position myself in the field accordingly. But he told me basically that he trusts me to make the plays and to position myself where I think I should be. In other words, don’t over-think it.

That goes for my mechanics, too. When I’m trying to be too perfect, I lose what has worked for me my whole life. I was doing so many extra drills and hearing so much about my mistakes that it got into my head. I was thinking, “Oh, I have to do this on this certain play’’ rather than just letting my natural ability take over.

So now I just play the way I’ve always played. And it seems to be working.

There are certain plays you love to make because they’re so tough. The other day, I dove to my right for a hard-hit grounder and was able to get the runner at first. The dive isn’t the hard part. You’re just reacting; either the ball goes in the glove or it doesn’t.

The hard part is the simultaneous acts of popping up to your feet in such a way that you’re in position to throw across the diamond and transferring the ball to your throwing hand in such a way that you have a good grip.

What makes that play tough is that you really can’t practice it. You’re not diving for balls in BP. So when it happens in a game, you have to rely almost completely on your athletic ability and baseball instincts.

Once you’re up and positioned correctly with the right grip, the throw is the same throw you make on a normal backhand. I trust my arm no matter how deep I am in the field. I’ve been doing long toss since high school to keep my arm strong. I like to think I have as strong an arm as anyone on the team.

The only time I don’t dive for a ball to my right is if it’s a slow grounder. I’ll let those go into left field. The runner’s going to beat the throw, so it’s stupid to risk injury on a play that’s not going to get you an out. I know sometimes fans don’t understand that. I hear them yelling, “Why didn’t you dive for that ball?’’ (I hope those particular fans read this . . . )

On grounders up the middle, I’ll dive for just about everything because the throw is so much shorter. I feel I always I have a shot at getting the runner.

One other question I’ve gotten over the years: Why do I bat left-handed when I do everything else right-handed?

My dad had me switch-hitting since I was in T-ball. Once I got to Little League I hit mostly left-handed because almost all the pitchers were right-handed. So I stuck with it.

Thanks for the comments about playing baseball with my dad. And thanks to giantsfan9 for suggesting a post about the draft. Keep your questions and comments coming! To Issylina, it’d be cool to see a player from Samoa in the major leagues. We have to take some of those guys away from the NFL.

-Brandon C.

20 Comments

The made-up adjective we’ve been using around our house recently has been “Vizquelian” — seems like nothing fieldable gets between second and third bases these days, and a few that don’t look fieldable either! :) It’s awesome to watch.

I love the Blog, Brandon!! It gives us a fans a look into your life when you are not playing basebal.

Hi Brandon!
Thank you so much for this post. Came at a perfect time as I get ready to jump back into hustling towards my dream career today. I’m very glad that you’re with San Francisco, and that getting drafted to your dream team worked out for you. :) It’s been great having you around! I’m also glad you talked about what drives you out there on the field and how you come to make certain decisions. It’s all too easy to criticize other people but you never know unless you’ve been there before. So your honesty and perspective is wonderful to read.

Best wishes to you – keep doing what you’re doing and keep your head up. Looking forward to the rest of this season with you on the team!

Thanks so much for your posts, and in this one, your honesty, and your perspective. Obviously, everything happens for a reason — being picked fourth round meant that now, you’ll be with your childhood favorite team and close to your family. I’ve been cheering you on since you came up last year and have been steadfastly behind you — as you make the spectacular plays, the routine plays, and even as you make errors, because I know it’s all about growing and learning. I believe in your defense and your bat and I have so much respect for your mental toughness this season. This is just the beginning for you and I predict an amazing career, and am hoping your many successful years in the majors are all with the Giants. As a fellow Bruin history major, I have extra special love and support for you! Best of luck for the rest of the season. Stay confident and ignore the haters.

I really look forward to all your posts. Perhaps you could talk in your next posts about what it’s like in the big leagues to juggle the baseball season and being out of town so much with spending time with your wife and (soon to be growing!) family? (I once sat in front of your mom, sisters, and wife at a game and they are just the nicest and sweetest people.)

This was awesome to read Brandon and provides me with a deeper insight into why you do the things you do. It’s really great that you realize and have been told by your coach (boss) that you should follow your instincts and get back to the way you learned to do it….that’s what made you great!!! I hope Timmy reads your blog….I think he’s let alot of the negativity get in his head and he needs to follow this same advice: Get back to what his Dad taught him long ago-that’s what made him into the great player he is. Trust his gut and his instinct, just as you have done……Y’all are all under such tremendous pressure to perform that it is easy for fans to forget that you are human just like we are, and that baseball, like I am a data analyst, is a job (you probably just love your job more than most!!). I really enjoy reading these blogs and they help reenforce that for me. Can’t wait to see y’all here in Atlanta next month. Thanks for all you do!

It’s great to have such well-written content from behind the scenes — thanks to both of you for your enthusiasm for the game, both on and off the field.

I’ve watched the ups and downs of this season for you, and I wish you the best. A question though…Did you think you got better pitches to hit in the 2 hole, behind Blanco or does it make a difference?

That is exactly how to do it, let your instincts take over, and your brain will process all those practices that you did before and help you make the right movement and do what you had done a thousand times before.

Say, speaking of opposites, how did Bumgarner learn to throw left if everything else he does is right? And you should ask Sandoval about the time he threw out someone LEFT-HANDED from 3B, in the minors. FACT!

Thanks for the awesome, insightful post Crawdaddy! Go Bruins!

So glad you’re with the Giants! I have never before purchased a Giants shirt (or any article of clothing) with a player’s name on it…but a few weeks ago I bought Crawford shirt. My friend asked me why and I said, “cause he plays some pretty baseball!” I know, totally not a masculine thing to say about baseball. Anyway, I love watching you on defense. But I do have just one question for you….what’s with the batting gloves in your back pockets? Are they for luck? Superstition? You like to have extras around just in case?

Thanks for playing such pretty baseball! ;)

It’s a pleasure to watch you grow into your position as a Giant. Your plays are so often elegant! Please don’t lose that uniqueness that you have. You make it look so easy, but I’m sure it’s not.

I aspire to be like you B-Crawf. I live in Redwood City and have been playing shortstop from T-ball all the way through my second year in high school. A die hard Giants and Bruins fan, you’re advice on not over thinking ground balls and playing your own game has influenced my personal game. Thanks for the post man.

Thanks Crawford, I couldn’t agree more!!!

Happy early Fathers Day!!!

-Island Girl

This was a fantastic post! It was extremely interesting, and really well-written. It was awesome to read.
Congratulations on being a part of Cain’s perfect game! That was truly an amazing feat, not only for him but for the whole team. You all made that game as wonderful as it was. It must have been the best feeling in the world to be a part of it.
Since for a pitcher a perfect game is facing 27 batters and sending them all straight back to the dugout, I want to ask, what is a perfect game for a shortstop/position player? Before this game what was the best game you had ever been in?
Thanks for updating! I always get excited when I see that you or Belt have added a new post. Keep up the good work on and off the field! :)

I absolutely love your blog. I think it would be awesome if you and Belt had your wives write something about being a SF giant’s baseball wife!

Agree’d

Those poor wives. I do not envy any of them. They have to say goodbye for days on end. God bless them for all their patience and understanding.

Hey Brandon- It was nice to read about your perspective on the draft. My daughter Caitlin went to the same schools as you here in Pleasanton and had quite a few friends eligible for the draft the same year (she went to ASU). I was watching the entire time hoping that you would go early, but it was even better when you ended up going to my favorite team, the Giants! I knew that you had always been a Giants’ fan so I was so excited, I called Murph and Mac on KNBR and told them not to forget about you when they were talking about the draft picks during their morning show. They agreed that you would be one to watch! So happy every time to see you out on the field!

Enjoy watching your awesome job on the field and reading your posts! As someone born and raised in the Bay Area, it’s great hearing from a player from the local area. As a family of long-time (2nd & 3rd generation) Giants fans, we wish you continued success and a long career with the team! Go Giants!

I’m just now logged into these blogs and have a question. You said, “I’ve been doing long toss since high school to keep my arm strong.” Does “long toss” mean you’ve pretty much been practicing throwing longer distances, like an outfielder, to keep your arm conditioned? Whatever you’re doing, keep it up. It doesn’t seem to matter how you are positioned mid-air when you throw, you seem to consistently get off such a clean shot to first. It just so fun to watch you play such great ball.

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