Lakewood shortstop J.P. Crawford comes from good stock. His father, Larry, was a nine-year veteran in the CFL and a four-time all-star as a defensive back.
Interestingly enough, J.P. found out last November that he was a distant cousin of Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford.
The two have kept in touch and Carl has given his younger cousin advice on what to expect on his current journey to Major League Baseball.
“(He says) always work hard because it’s going to be a grind later on, but once you get there it’s going to be like nothing you’ve ever experienced before,” J.P. Crawford said.
Carl was a second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999. J.P. went much higher. Widely considered by many draft experts to be the top middle infielder in the draft, J.P. went 16th overall to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Crawford’s coach, Spud O’Neil. just wrapped his 30th season at the helm of the Lakewood baseball program.
He’s won two CIF titles and has seen a lot and coached a lot of very talented players. Former California Angel Damion Easley starred for O’Neil while Boston Red Sox outfielder Mike Carp, 16-year veteran Chris Gomez, and Shane Watson -– a first round pick of the Phillies last season –- are some others who played for the legendary head coach.
With that as a preface, O’Neil says Crawford’s as special as any of them.
“(He’s) by far the best player that we’ve ever had going through high school,” O’Neil said.
The numbers back up O’Neil’s claim. Lakewood has a .350 club for players that have hit .350 or better over the course of a season with a minimum of 60 at-bats. In his four-year career, Crawford has appeared on that list four times.
He’s Lakewood’s career leader in hits (179), runs (162), stolen bases (73), and walks (72).
“It’s a great honor, especially with him because he’s been around for so long,” Crawford said of his coach’s comments. “He had a lot of great people come through so it means a lot.”
In 2010, Crawford became the first freshman to start for Lakewood under O’Neil. He hit .404 for the season batting leadoff — a spot in the order he held his entire high school career.
However, away from the field, he was given a pivotal lesson in humility.
Like athletes and just about everyone else, Crawford took to Twitter. He decided to use the social media network as a platform to discuss his accomplishments. He was the first freshman to start at Lakewood and figured he’d share it with the social media universe.
When his dad found out about his self-serving tweets, Crawford had to be reminded he hadn’t accomplished anything yet. Crawford hasn’t forgotten to remain humble, but his dad is always there for a reminder in case he ever forgets.
“I just try to talk to him about my experience (in the CFL and) what to look for,” Larry said. “(I tell him) not to get too cocky. Don’t be too up and don’t be too down.”
Added Crawford: “(He’ll tell me) ‘Don’t get big headed now,’ trying to resemble his father’s voice. “He just gives me that look sometimes.”
Working hard and staying humble will be key to his future in professional baseball.
Crawford’s always known he wanted to be a professional baseball player. Although he’s committed to USC, there are many who believe he’ll forego college and go straight to the Phillies’ farm system.
“It’s always been my dream to play in the MLB so if the chance comes I’m going to take it,” he said.