Back to School, Part 2

With kids going back to school, someone suggested Belt, Blanco and I answer the same three questions in our blogs this week.

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  1. What’s the best advice you ever got?
  2. What do you wish you knew back in high school that you know now?
  3. If you had never become a pro baseball player, how do you think playing sports as a kid would have helped you in life anyway?

The best advice:

I could say “work hard’’ and “stay in school,’’ but I’m going to be more specific to sports. A coach – I’m sorry I don’t remember which one – told me this when I started high school: “While you’re sitting at home and not working out, there are 10 other guys at your position outworking you.’’ I still think about that, especially in the off-season when maybe I wake up one morning and really don’t feel like working out. I say to myself, “There are 29 other shortstops working out and probably trying to take your job.’’

 Talent alone doesn’t get you far in sports. At each level, you realize there are players who are just as good as you or better.  Every player in college was the best player on his high school team. Every player in the minor leagues was the best player on his college team. Every player in the Majors was the best player on his minor league team. So how do you not only keep up but get an edge? By outworking everyone else. Taking more grounders, taking more swings, hitting the weights in the gym.

          This relates to Question Number 3 about how playing sports as a kid teaches you important lessons that help in all parts of your life. I think working harder than everyone else gives you an edge in whatever you do. Everybody’s competing to move up the ladder. The world is a competitive place. Sports helped me learn HOW to go about being competitive and not just rely on my natural competitiveness. (I had three younger sisters, so I was always competing – for the bathroom more than anything.)

          From playing sports I also learned how to stay on an even keel, which is important in everything from raising kids to driving in traffic. That’s a strong part of my game – the ability to wipe off whatever bad thing has happened and go out there the next day. Patience is a part of that, too (which I also learned from having three younger sisters.) Let’s say I go 0-for-20. You have to keep working hard and be patient because you know you’re eventually going to get a hit. You can’t panic. Patience also is important in waiting for your career to move forward. Things are going to happen on your time line.

          For example, in 2011, I broke my finger in spring training. I was supposed to go to Triple A but ended up having to stay in Arizona 6 weeks to heal then went to Single A San Jose to rehab. I thought I’d go quickly up to Triple A. But for two and a half weeks, I played in Single A with no word about Triple A. I stayed patient, and one day I got a call from Bobby Evans asking how quickly I could get to Fresno (Triple A). Finally! We were playing in Bakersfield, so it would not be an easy thing to get to Fresno. “Never mind,’’ Bobby said. “We’re flying you out of Bakersfield tomorrow. You’re coming to San Francisco.’’

It was my Major League call-up. You never know what’s in store. One of the best stories along these lines is about Daniel Nava, who started in left field against us Monday night for the Red Sox.

Nava played in high school but didn’t make the baseball team at Santa Clara as a walk-on. So he was the team’s equipment manager for two years. Then he had to leave Santa Clara because he couldn’t afford the tuition and went to San Mateo Junior College. He made the team there and became a JC All-American. Then he was invited back to Santa Clara on a full baseball scholarship for his senior year. He didn’t get drafted so he played for the Chico Outlaws, an independent league team, where he was discovered by a Red Sox scout. The Sox bought Nava’s rights from the Outlaws for exactly $1 (with $1499 extra if Nava was still with the Sox after spring training). He made his Major League debut in 2010, hitting a grand slam on the very first pitch he saw. (He and I are among the six Major League players to hit a grand slam our first time at bat.)

I love his story because it shows that just because success doesn’t come immediately, it can still come – and sometimes in a really big way.

So what do I wish I knew then that I know now?

          In baseball, it would be my hitting approach. I’d go up to the plate and just see the ball and hit it. Obviously, I’m smarter now in thinking about what a pitcher is trying to do.

          But outside of baseball, I wish I hadn’t worried so much about what people thought of me, especially in seventh grade. I was such an awkward kid – not like Belt awkward, not that bad – but pretty bad. I had acne and took this medication that I guess dried out my skin so bad that my eyebrow hair started to fall out. So not only did I have acne but now my eyebrows were all weird. I look at pictures and can laugh now. But back then I didn’t want to look people in the face or even talk to anyone. I wish I knew then that the acne was going to go away and that my eyebrows were going to grow back. I wish I knew that it doesn’t really matter what other people think. You are who you are. If other people don’t like you because of it, they were never going to be real friends.

          I’m kind of re-learning that lesson now. Since I was called up to the Majors, I’m hearing from all kinds of people who want to be my friend. The other day I got a call from this person I haven’t talked to since high school, now all of sudden he wants to hang out. I don’t think so.

          Hope at least some of this might be useful to someone out there!

          See you at the park.

  Brandon Crawford

37 Comments

Thanks for this. The timing is perfect for me! My 14 year old son just started high school yesterday and is intimidated about trying out for sports because he’s worried if he doesn’t do great, he’ll get laughed at or yelled at. He says he’ll never play in MLB anyway. I’ve been trying to tell him sports can teach you other life lessons but I think hearing it from you, the SS for his favorite team will make more of an impact. Like I said…perfect timing! Thanks for this blog. See you tomorrow night against the Pirates. My son & I will be there. Go Giants!

I think a good P.S. is that being competitive doesn’t mean it’s okay to cheat. Life offers no short cuts. And sports or not, stay healthy it’s a long ride. Sure as you age injuries are more likely, but with good care and maintenance, I’d like to think injury prevention/health starts when you’re younger. Be educated on the best training exercises for XYZ not the most popular.

That first quote absolutely, completely inspires me. Thank you for sharing that one! It’s a really good mindset and I’m going to live by it in my life and sports. This post overall is really inspirational, with Nava’s story and everything. The story about you in seventh grade is SO hilarious, but going through that must have been pretty bad. I don’t want to talk about today’s game. But you had some nice at-bats :) good luck against the Pirates!

It seems as if you’ve learned a lot of lessons in your life. I just love watching you hit, and ply short. We’ll keep on rooting for you, and enjoy your work and your family.

Hey Brandon,
That was really helpful. I’m about to start college and it’s great to hear that and know I can just be myself. :) It was encouraging.

B.C. – That was awesome !!!! If baseball ever plays out you could always be a Motivational Speaker or Youth Pastor !!! If ya ever end up in East Texas look me up. You have a Great Word !!!

This was such an awesome post.

always a pleasure to read what you are up to and learn more each day about the world of baseball. you’ve been my favorite player this year, even before I saw your April home run. you and the rest of the team make being fan great baseball fun, even if this season isn’t working out as well as we know a season can. thanks!

” i was such an awkward kid–not like belt awkward, not that bad .” classic. you two crack me up……

That LOL’d me too! Everyone picks on Belt!

p.s. i announced you were getting a gold glove this year at the beggining of the season, carved in stone. perhaps having not the best year doesn’t showcase your defense enough, but gold glove, next year if not this. love watching you play short !

I always appreciate your insight and the hearing details about the inside of baseball from the player’s point of view. You have been my favorite player of the season, even before the home run I saw during an April game. You and the rest of the team make being a fan great fun as we all try to be our best and look forward to each game.

Funny story my mom told me recently: When Brandon a little tot his mother, who was friends with my mother, came over to our house to visit while Brandon played with building blocks on the carpet. After they had finished and Brandon was told it was time to leave, he immediately began to pick up the blocks and put them away without being told. My mother, who had taught elementary school her entire life said she had never seen such a thing before or since. Hmm, now that I think about it, he’s pretty good about picking up balls in the infield as well. Been great watching you, Brandon. Hopefully I’ll be watching Giants games for many years to come with you playing shortstop.

Brandon, whatever you did about the acne paid off….I saw a picture of you and your wife at the WDC day, and she is very pretty. So, chalk one up for you! I have to admit that Timmy is my overall favorite; but we love you all…win or lose! I love Tim’s attitude and desire to work hard and I have raised four boys playing baseball. So, I’ll always be a FAN!!

Love the advice for the kiddos! :)

Thanks for sharing your insights. I was at the park today with my 11 year old who LOVES the game and will be heading off to his first year in middle school. Some great lessons that I will share with him for sure!
Keep plugging away out there, we really enjoy watching you and the team. Go Giants!

My Mom loves you, now I gotta share this with her and let her know your a good ghy besides being a good shortstop and hitter…and cute. I’ll never hear the end of your greatness now :-)

I’m an old dude 58yrs but Brandon has some of the best advise here anybody could read. God Bless you Pal.. Greg

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I am keeping this article and hanging it up in my dorm room to keep my head up when times get difficult. Truly an inspiration, and being easy on the eyes doesn’t hurt either;)

awesome, brandon. required reading for my 12 year old entering the 7th grade next week… would be great to get you out to a Bay Area Giants (travel baseball program on the peninsula) practice during the off season. your mental approach is fantastic and is a real inspiration to the boys. good luck with the rest of the season.

This blog is so great! Great advice, great experiences that you share with us. I really appreciate your time. Thank you!

Hey Pretty Boy, you’ve come along way baby. Keep up the great work . And FYI love the 5 o’clock shadow but not the beard, it makes you look like wolverine:)

I know what he went through. I used acutane for my acne my senior year in high school. I got dry skin and it dried out my nose so bad, that I got a nose bleed at prom. You aren’t the only one that felt bad about the way they looked. I know people that used to be mean to me and are nice now. I am not friends with people who are mean. You gave good advice.

Thanks Brandon! I am a youth minister at a United Methodist church in Louisiana and I can think of several young people with whom I will be sharing this article. Good advice for athletes and even us “regular” folks!

Thanks Brandon! I am a youth minister at a United Methodist church in Louisiana and I can think of several students with whom I will share this article. Great advice for athletes and even us “regular” folks!

Brandon, as I told your friend B. Belt. You guys are such role models for the youth of this country. Guys like you can really help keep kids on the right path. I love your story about Nava and your road to the big league. Most people think success is a straight path, but anyone who is successful will tell you different. There are a lot of crooks and turns in that path. I love my Giants for the good people that they are. I love the game no matter who is playing it. You and your team mates are my favorites. Keep the Attitude. We are cheering for you.

Crawford- I have to admit for almost all of last year I was a very vocal critic of yours. You were supposed to be a defensive gem and didn’t live up to it at first. That just made the hitting that much worse.

As the season progressed the defense showed up and then the hitting started looking much better. Now, in your second full year as a started I am a huge fan. You stayed in there and you kept trying. You played through the boo’s and you have out played what everyone thought you were capable of. I use you as an example to my kids.

I applaud you on an excellent blog and being one of the best Giants on the field. Let’s hope the Giants let you stay here until you both wish to go somewhere else (knowing you grew up a Giants fan, hoping that won’t happen.)

Brandon C.,
Your blogs always make my day a little bit brighter! Keep ‘em comin’!
-A fan

Love your honesty and humor!

I loved this article. I switched schools in 4th grade and I had a lisp and was chunky. That plagued me through high school. I’m tan, athletic, and in engineering school and everytime I run into old classmates, especially guys, they’re chatting me up like there’s no tomorrow. You’re a wonderful influence to all kids and athletes everywhere. Congratulations, you deserve to be where you are!

Haha Belt!

Always enjoy the blog. Your advice about guys always trying to compete for your spot is great. Guess guys are always worrying about that in the big leagues – must be a great motivator. I had a kind of silly question about the commercial that you’re in with Barry Zito where you’re both blow drying your hair. It looks to me like what you are saying does NOT match up with the subtitles they put in. What were you two REALLY talking about? Your fans want the inside scoop! Keep making those plays we love to watch in center field, and enjoy your adorable daughter.

“I was such an awkward kid – not like Belt awkward, not that bad – but pretty bad.”
You make me laugh so much with your great humor! Maybe during the offseason you should go on a comedy tour!

I needed this. Thank you Brandon. :)

Thanks for sharing, I love this whole series! This was a nice format, having the three of you answer the same questions, hope to see more of these. The blogs really humanizes the players for us fans, I greatly appreciate this window into the players’ life. I can really relate to your story about awkwardness in high school!

Loved reading this! Thanks for posting. Your words reach a ton of people and really make a difference! Go Giants!! My husband and I will be cheering you guys on tonight! :-)

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