In 2011, the Oakland A's made centerfielder Bobby Crocker their third overall pick (fourth round) in the draft. It was the second time that the A's had called Crocker's name on draft day, originally taking him out of high school in the 38th round in 2008. Crocker attended Aptos High School, the alma mater of Oakland A's Scouting Director Eric Kubota.
Crocker came to the A's with the reputation for being an athletic, if somewhat raw, player capable of hitting for average and power, while stealing bases and handling centerfield.
Crocker lived up to that scouting report during his pro debut season with the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters. In 118 at-bats, he hit .322/.367/.441 with eight extra-base hits and six stolen bases in seven chances. Crocker then starred during the A's fall Instructional League, leading to big expectations for the Aptos, California, native going into 2012.
The Cal-Poly alum spent his first full professional season with the Low-A Burlington Bees of the Midwest League. Crocker struggled to get on any kind of sustained hot streak and finished with pedestrian numbers (.268/.347/.369 in 406 at-bats). He also missed time with injury, playing in 112 games.
Crocker was sent to the A's instructional league once again last fall and he once again made significant strides, according to A's minor league coaches. After a solid spring, Crocker was sent to High-A Stockton to start the season. Thus far, Crocker is off to a solid start for the Ports, who have opened the season 4-2. In six games, he is batting .333 with seven hits in 21 at-bats. Crocker has four doubles, a homer and two walks.
We spoke with Crocker on the eve of the Ports' 2013 season about his pro debut, his preparation for this season and more…
OaklandClubhouse: Is it nice to be back in California after being in the Midwest last year?
Bobby Crocker: Yeah, absolutely. This is where I am from and this is where I learned to play baseball, so I am excited to be here.
OC: When you were drafted A's Scouting Director Eric Kubota said that you were a player he had followed for a long time and you guys went to the same high school. Was he someone you knew before the draft process?
BC: I had never really met Eric before I got drafted. I knew he was from the area and there were some mutual friends and some older guys who I know that knew him. But no, I didn't know him before the whole draft process.
OC: What was your first full year like? Was there anything that you took away from that experience in particular?
BC: Yeah. I learned a lot. It's so much different than in college, getting 400 at-bats. Obviously experience is huge and repetition. I wouldn't say I was disappointed by last season, but I am definitely not satisfied. Playing a whole long six-month season is something that is new for all of us first year guys. I'm excited to take what I learned and go into this season.
OC: Todd Steverson [A's minor league hitting coordinator] said you made a lot of improvements in Instructs and this spring. What sort of stuff were you working on in particular?
BC: More of a mentality. Just being relaxed. Not a lot of physical adjustments. We worked some on my approach and just realizing that less is more sometimes in this game. It was really hard for me to comprehend that because I like to play the game hard. Unfortunately it sometimes can get in the way. It's still an adjustment I am working on and hopefully will make that adjustment instead of game-to-game, at-bat-to-at-bat and pitch-to-pitch.
OC: Is there a player or style of play that you have modeled your game after?
OC: Former A's prospect Grant Desme was the centerfielder before you at Cal Poly. Did you know him at all?
BC: He was a little before my time, but I've met Grant several times. I know how great of a guy he is and the path he chose.
OC: Was it fun to be re-drafted by the organization that took you out of high school? Were you expecting that at all?
BC: Not really. It's awesome that they have had their eye on me for awhile. I like this organization and it has been fun playing in the organization, especially with this team.
OC: You and Dusty Robinson played together in the Cape Cod League and I had heard you were pretty good friends. Was it nice to have someone in the organization that you already knew when you turned pro?
BC: Definitely. It's amazing how small of a world it is. I have been playing against Dusty and with Dusty for the past four or five years. Whether we are playing against each other or with each other, it's always a great experience.
OC: What was that experience like in the Cape? It got you a lot more exposure as a college player, as well.
BC: It's different over there. It's one of the most prestigious leagues for college guys. It's kind of tough to play at the fields, but the entire atmosphere and the old fashioned type look to the fields and knowing that that is all a part of history, that was the coolest thing for me. It was an honor to play over there. Like I said, it's always great to play with your buddy, and Dusty is one of those guys.
OC: Growing up in California, did you have a favorite team?
BC: I have always been a Bay Area guy, A's and Giants. I grew up going to Giants games, but now it is a little different. [laughs]