Whether they’re willing to admit it or not, every baseball fan has a favourite baseball player. Maybe it’s their favourite team’s current ace, the random right fielder whose jersey they received as a Christmas gift when they were eight years old, or a promising prospect whose career was cut short by injury.
In this new series, we’ll be asking British baseball fans to tell us how their favourite player came to be their favourite player and a whole lot more. We spoke to Bat Flips and Nerds San Francisco Giants writer Ash Day (@AshDay29) about his love for their legendary shortstop Brandon Crawford.
First off, why Brandon Crawford?
San Francisco Giants fans have been blessed to have some of the best players in the game pass through town during their careers: Willie Mays, Will Clark, Barry Bonds, Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum, the list goes on.
For me, it was always Brandon Crawford. A local Bay Area kid who grew up a Giants fan and attended games at Candlestick, was drafted by his hometown club and progressed up the ladder to fame and fortune. Crawford’s career is the stuff dreams are made of.
Crawford displayed his elite defensive skills daily, at the sport’s most demanding position no less, and the awe-inspiring plays he made at shortstop drew me in. I was hooked. Four Gold Glove awards don’t do justice to just how easy Crawford made it look.
After 13 wonderful years with the Giants, it appears Crawford’s time in San Francisco is over. It certainly looked that way, when he bid farewell to the fans and the organisation in the final home game of 2023. Rumour has it he could play elsewhere in 2024, with another team. Regardless of what transpires in the future, Crawford is the definition of a Forever Giant in my eyes, and will always hold a sacred place in my sports-obsessed heart.
What’s your earliest memory of watching him play?
Despite debuting with the Giants midway through the 2011 campaign, it was in 2012 that Crawford truly established himself as here to stay. He featured in 143 games that year and was a huge part of the Giants’ World Series winning roster.
Crawford went on to play 1,654 games for the Giants, becoming the franchise’s all-time appearance leader at shortstop in the process. I don’t think anyone expected such record-breaking success and longevity back in 2012, but it was abundantly clear San Francisco had someone special.
What is your favourite Brandon Crawford moment?
My favourite Crawford moment actually takes place off the field. In 2019, my first visit to San Francisco’s gorgeous Oracle Park, I was strolling around the concourse taking everything in before an April contest against the Rockies. Shortly before first pitch I stopped into a novelty shop, where all sorts of Giants memorabilia were available for purchase (but light years beyond my budget).
A wall of game-used bats greeted me and I instantly gravitated towards a beautiful piece of maple timber, with bright orange tape wrapping the handle. Upon closer inspection, I saw Crawford’s name printed on the barrel, and for a split second I felt like I was holding Excalibur. The exorbitant price tag meant it would never be mine but in that fleeting moment I felt a connection to my favourite Giant. As I gripped the handle and mimicked Crawford’s swing in front of my incredibly patient wife, I was transported back to being a little kid. It dawned on me I was holding the same bat my sporting hero had previously held, and that moment will stay with me for a very long time.
On the field, Crawford has given me so many favourite moments. Here’s a piece I wrote about a couple of them, from his unforgettable 2021 season, where he single-handedly took apart the Rockies in an early April series.
Do you own any Brandon Crawford merchandise?
Of course! I am fortunate to own the fashionable all-black Giants alternate jersey (that they really should wear more often), with Crawford’s name and number 35 adorned on the back.
I wore it with immense pride to this year’s London Series, despite the oppressive 30 degree heat. It was worth it.
What’s your favourite highlight?
Let’s rewind to the start of October 2014, in a raucous Pittsburgh, as the Giants face the Pirates in a winner-takes-all Wild Card game. It’s a tense, scoreless affair that San Francisco must win, and Crawford steps into the box with the bases loaded.
Pirates pitcher Edinson Volquez, untouchable to this point, hangs a breaking ball and Crawford’s killer instinct kicks in. He makes no mistake, crushing the ball into the right field stands for a grand slam that overwhelms the capacity-filled crowd and everyone watching at home.
You have never heard a stadium go so quiet, so quickly, as Crawford rounds the bases. The Giants didn’t look back and rode that momentum all the way to their third World Series championship in five years.
Ash Day is the San Francisco Giants writer for Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on X (Twitter) @AshDay29
Photo credit for featured image by Suzanna Mitchell/San Francisco Giants/Getty Images.