Rays Digest: Because you are a little older and a lot of guys in the rookie leagues are guys fresh out of high school, do you find yourself - maybe not some much in terms of baseball stuff - but in terms of "life" stuff, being somewhat of a mentor and helping guys with the mental adjustment of playing baseball away form home?
Shay Crawford: I think in Princeton I might have been the oldest guy on the team. I know I was down in the GCL. It's a little insecure feeling I guess. But at the same time, I felt like I used that to help mentor some of the high school guys. I think a lot of them were really impressed with my story and how I got there and how long it took me. So they were kind of interested in hearing about that.
A lot of those guys have some really good tools and the talent to make it. I was excited to share the summer with some of them and make friends with a lot of them. I think going forward, I'm going to continue to kind of help mentor those younger guys and give them the kind of advice that they need to keep pushing forward. Especially a lot of them being right out of high school, it's got to be tough being away from home for the first time.
Rays Digest: I know you're on Twitter and that's actually how we ended up connecting. I always ask all of the minor league players, - because I'm like obsessed with social media - (laughing) what their feelings are on it. For you is it more of a casual thing? Or is it a way for you to market yourself and get your name out there? Is it a way to connect with fans? How do you feel about social media as a minor league baseball player?
Shay Crawford: I got a Twitter last year. My sister had told me I needed to get one for the longest time, but I was always against it. I didn't think I was a Twitter person. I ended up getting it - really I guess - to interact with friends and stuff. I've noticed that I've picked up some followers over the past few months - Rays fans. I think that's pretty cool. Hopefully I'll continue to meet people through Twitter, other Rays fans and people that are rooting for me.
Rays Digest: As a lower-round draft pick, you obviously didn't get a big signing bonus. I know you have a business degree, and despite what people may think, minor league baseball players don't make a lot of money. Do you work in the off-season? Or is their anything else that you do besides play baseball?
Shay Crawford: I'm actually pursuing a Masters Degree here in Nashville at Lipscombe University - an MBA. I'm kind of preparing myself for what I want to do later on in life. I've kind of always had an ambition to work in a front office of a major league franchise. I'm hoping to maybe get that opportunity after my playing career is over. So I'm working on a Master degree here and I actually finish up the term - they're 8 weeks terms, so they were able to work with me on the scheduling stuff - literally a couple of days before spring training. So I've been doing that and it's been keeping me very busy.
I've been teaching pitching lessons out at a facility here in Nashville that Ben Zobrist and a couple of other minor league and major league players work out at. So I've gotten to meet some of those guys and do some work with some younger kids. The rest of the time I hang out with my girlfriend here and my sister and some of my friends. So it's been a good off-season.
Rays Digest: I had forgotten that Ben Zobrist is from that neck-of-the-woods. He has an academy there or something doesn't he?
Shay Crawford: I don't think he owns it, but he's always there working out. It's Showtime Sports Academy. It's out in Franklin. He lives out there, so he's there all the time. He's done a couple of camps and events that I've participated in. So I've gotten to know him pretty well. I was actually at his house last weekend for a Bible study. He's a really nice guy - he and his wife.
Rays Digest: You have talked a lot about beating the odds and getting drafted. If you could just lay out a few of your goals for 2012 what would they be? Do you want to try and play full-season ball? Are you just going to try and continue to make the adjustment to being a reliever? If you were to right two or three goals for 2012 what would they be?
Shay Crawford: Obviously make a full-season team. I'm pretty sure that one of the coaches had pretty much told me that it was a necessity for me that I move forward and have a really good spring training and make a full-season club - hopefully Bowling Green. That would be ideal, because I'd be close to my family and everything. That's definitely my goal out of spring training. I'm going to compete as hard as I can and try to show them that I am capable of doing well as a reliever in A-ball.
Increasing the velocity a little bit is another goal I have. I'd like to get into that 90-92 mph range. And work on the change-up and get that to the point where it needs to be to beat full-season, good hitters. And also get the confidence to rely on that in certain situations. Because I haven't in the past and I've tried to beat hitters with the fastball.
So those are a couple of really big goals of mine. Other than that, it's just to have fun with it and enjoy it and take it day-by-day.
Rays Digest: You were talking about the change-up. As a starter in college you were just throwing two pitches and it's something you just developed right?
Shay Crawford: Right. For the most part I just focused on throwing fastballs and breaking balls in college. I was able to get away with it my last year over here at Lee. But I realized that the better hitters I saw in rookie ball - and there were a few really good hitters I saw - they were able to make the adjustment. I need a third pitch to kind of keep them off-balance and keep them off my fastball. I realize that it is essential for me to have that pitch going forward. It's something that I've really been working on and emphasizing and I really hope it pays off. When you don't throw 96-97 mph, you kind of need that third pitch. I don't throw that hard and probably never will. Like I said, it's been a big emphasis for me and I am really excited to see how the improvements I've made pay off in spring training.______________________________________________________________
John Gregg is Publisher and Senior Editor of Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaysDigest. He can also be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.