AVON — Coco Crisp might be three years removed from his last game in the major leagues but the competitive juices still flow.
Crisp joined the Crushers on Saturday night as the guest designated hitter and certainly didn’t embarrass himself. He struck out in the first inning but singled the opposite way in the third and grounded out to third base in the fifth but hustled all the way on the play.
The crowd of 2,569 cheered him on every at-bat in the Crushers’ 1-0 loss to the River City Rascals.
Crisp was anxious before the game, not really knowing for sure how he’d do.
He hadn’t swung at live pitching since retiring in 2016 when the Indians made a late-season push to make the World Series.
“I played some softball,” he said with a grin. “I think this ball will come a little bit faster.”
The Crushers loved having him on the roster even though it was just one night.
“To get the tiniest knowledge that he can give us is a blessing,” catcher Bryan De La Rosa said.
“I remember watching him growing up,” second baseman Aaron Hill said. “He was on Oakland, he was on the Red Sox. I was a Yankee fan. Coco was always a threat to get on base.”
“I remember him mostly with the Oakland Athletics,” Crushers manager Cameron Roth said. “Just the way that guy played the game … played it the right way and played it hard.”
Crisp is coaching his own kids in little league and travel ball these days. His advice for young players is pretty simple.
“There’s a couple things in my mind,” he said. “On the field, the most important thing is hustle. If you hustle it just means you’re giving your best in every single situation. You get four at-bats and if you’re lucky five at-bats to run to first base as a position player. Give it your all. It takes a lot of players further than even their talent. If you’re the same talent level as somebody and you’re out there hustling and giving it your all, the manager likes that, your teammates like that, the fans like that.
“Off the field, or when you’re in the dugout, eyes and ears. Just watch the game instead of joking around. You learn a lot from watching the game.”
Crisp played with Cleveland at the beginning and end of his career.
“One of the great things about my time in Cleveland was when I got traded over from the St. Louis Cardinals (2002), I had played against a lot of the guys that ended up on the team,” he said. “Brandon Phillips, (Grady) Sizemore, Cliff Lee — they came over on the Bartolo Colon trade. Victor Martinez — played against him in the minors and a lot of other guys. We played against each other and now we’re battling on the same team — all young, we all came up together.
“It was fun. We were all young. We had team chemistry because we knew each other. It was pretty amazing, it was pretty special and we learned a lot from the veteran guys — Omar Vizquel, (Jim) Thome, (Ellis) Burks — that made it real nice.”
Crisp loved it when he was traded back to Cleveland for the stretch run in 2016.
“At the end of my career to be able to make it to the playoffs was special,” he said. “We won 93 games in 2005 and I think still we’re the only team to win that many games and not make the playoffs. To be able to come back and enjoy a moment in the playoffs in Cleveland where I started was very special.”
And how’d he get the nickname Coco?
“Covelli starts with Co,” he said of his real first name. “It started off as kind of a joke. In AA ball, I was struggling and they put the name up on the board and the announcer said, ‘Now batting, No. 4, Coco Crisp,’ and instantly my mind went away from anything that was happening in game with my struggles. My first plate appearance, I get a base hit. After that I was rolling and so Coco stuck.”
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