Hoping To Build Upon A Good 2008

Trevor Crowe ... still a top prospect.

Trevor Crowe came to the Indians organization with great fanfare as a first-round draft pick in 2005. Many expected the switch-hitting bundle of energy from the University of Arizona to rise quickly through the farm system and become Cleveland's leadoff hitter in short time. It hasn't happened, though a solid 2008 season put the 25-year-old outfielder back on the radar as a big-league prospect.

Leg injuries in 2006 slowed his progress, then he endured a lack-luster season in Double-A ball in 2007. He came back strong, however, in 2008. Despite missing some time to injury in June, Crowe had a good couple of months at Double-A Akron and was promoted to Triple-A for the first time. After batting .323 in 199 at-bats at Akron, he went to Buffalo and hit .274 in 146 at-bats, displaying more power (five homers, 12 doubles) than he had earlier in his career.

Crowe attributes it to an attitude adjustment. The following story, reprinted from the May 2008 issue of Indians Ink Magazine shows that Crowe was a man of his words. He said then that he was determined to overcome his poor 2007. Then he went out and did it.

When spring training begins in February, the Indians are sure to take a good look at Crowe in the outfield. There's an outside chance that a productive spring or injuries to other outfielders could put him in Cleveland on opening day, though it is more likely that he'll start the season at Triple-A Columbus.

A Humbling Experience
Trevor Had Little To `Crowe' About In 2007

Imagine you're a used car salesman who hasn't met his sales quota in thee months. Not only would you start to doubt your ability to close a deal, but your boss would also likely be ready to drive you out the door.

Imagine being a jockey who rode the favorite every day for three months, yet never finished better than fourth. Not only would you begin to wonder why you didn't follow your mom's advice and become a doctor, but the horse owners would also likely begin to look elsewhere for their riders.

Now, imagine being one of the top baseball prospects in your organization, but you're hitting under .200 three months into the season. Not only would you be wondering what happened to your batting eye, but in normal situations your "boss" would be finding increased pine time for you.

"Show me a guy hitting under .200 three months into the season who says he is confident, and I will show you a liar," said outfielder Trevor Crowe, the Indians' first-round draft choice in 2005.

Make no mistake, Crowe, who was hitting just .192 through June 25 for the Class AA Akron Aeros last season, more often than not looked like a guy who didn't have a clue at the plate the first half of the season.

It was astonishing, to say the least.

This was the same guy who had hit .329 in 60 games at Kinston in 2006. This was the same guy who was ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the organization by Indians Ink prior to the 2007 season. This was the same guy who some of the Tribe hierarchy thought had a chance to make his major league debut at some point last season. This was the same guy who some were comparing favorably to Boston's hot-shot outfield prospect Jacoby Ellsbury.

So what happened to the talented switch-hitting center-field prospect out of the University of Arizona?

"I let the vision of myself as a major league baseball player affect my daily actions as a minor league baseball player," Crowe candidly admits. "Making the major league team was on my mind, but it had nothing to do with what the front office was saying. It had nothing to do with what the media was saying.

"It had everything to do with my personal evaluation of my ability. I thought if I had a good year and there was an opportunity presented to me, I could take that opportunity and run with it.

"I was pressing. I was trying to do too much. Then I failed trying to make up for failing. Once you start compounding those things, you just dig yourself a deeper and deeper hole."

Player development director Ross Atkins says Crowe's failure to concentrate on the present rather than project the future is a common mistake made by young prospects. "All players do it," Atkins said. "You can't get caught trying to control things you can't control."

For the longest time it seemed there would be no way Crowe could ever save his season.

And if not for the confidence of then-Aeros manager Tim Bogar, who is now with the Tampa Bay organization, the entire season might have been lost.

Bogar stood by his struggling outfielder. "Tim Bogar helped me a whole lot," Crowe said. "It was very important for me to know that even though I was struggling, that my manager was still in my corner every day when I came to the ball park. "He had been there himself as a player. He knew what it was like to come to the park when you were not feeling your best (mentally). For him to understand that was a big plus for me."

Bogar took some of the pressure off Crowe by moving him out of his normal leadoff spot to the bottom half of the lineup. He also constantly reassured Crowe that if he just concentrated on one day at a time, the end result would be his reaching his personal goal.

It turned out to be a stroke of genius as Crowe definitely did a remarkable turnaround from June 26 to the end of the season. He hit .323 over that stretch with a .390 on-base percentage and finished the year with a respectable .259 average.

"He's definitely still one of our top prospects," says Atkins. "Last year was the first time baseball has ever been difficult for him. We may think higher of him than we did before because of the way he came back."

Now, Crowe plans to carry his 2007 second-half success into the 2008 season no matter if he is back at Akron for another season or advances to Class AAA Buffalo.

"I'm going to be ready for whatever level they stick me at," Crowe said. "No matter where I go I will be prepared for it so that 2007 is not repeated, whether I'm at Akron or Buffalo. One of the things I learned last year is that this game requires so much energy that you cannot afford to waste any of that energy on something you cannot control."

Naturally, he'd love to be at Buffalo to start the season because it would be one step closer to achieving his goal, but you won't hear him complain one way or the other. As he worked out in preparation for the 2008 season, he had a look of determination and confidence.

"I think the strong finish helped my confidence, but the most important thing about it was that it got my focus back to being the best player I can be every single day," Crowe said.

"There are so many baseball games that taking one day at a time has to be your mindset. You have to play the best you can within the 24-hour period. Once that is over with, it is done. You move on to the next day."

Crowe still has his sights set on the major leagues, but he now realizes it is a process that will take some time.

"The first thing you have to do is rearrange your priorities," he said. "As I said, you take one day at a time."

At one point late in the 2006 season, the Indians experimented with Crowe at second base because that seemed to be a quicker path to the majors. It was a short-lived move as Crowe showed the rust of not having played infield for several years.

Asked if the position switch might have contributed to his struggles in 2007, Crowe said emphatically, "It (his bad start) had absolutely nothing to do with the move to second. It had nothing to do with anything other than the fact I performed poorly for those three months."

Crowe doesn't have the power (just 11 home runs in 1,135 career minor league at-bats coming into this season) you normally look for from a corner outfielder, thus his future would seem to be pretty much limited to center field.

"Trevor is extremely athletic," Atkins said. "He's an average defender who can be an above-average defender if he continues to work at it."

Considering Gold Glove winner Grady Sizemore is signed through 2011 with a club option for 2012, Crowe knows that might mean he'll eventually have to play for another team if he is to become an everyday player on the major league level.

"There is no doubt you are playing for 30 teams," he said. "Obviously, first and foremost my personality is for me to pay back the Indians for the opportunity they have given me. But when you break it apart and look at the business side, my ultimate dream when I was growing up was to be a major-leaguer. It wasn't necessarily to be a Cleveland Indian. If I am a Cleveland Indian, that's just a bonus."

While 2007 certainly wasn't Crowe's best year, there were several reasons why he enjoyed the season.

"There were three things for which I was very proud in 2007," he said. "One of them was having Jordan Brown on my team. He is a very close friend and he was awesome."

Brown was Crowe's teammate at the University of Arizona and both were drafted by the Indians in 2005. Crowe was the 14th overall pick. Brown, who was the Eastern League's Most Valuable Player in 2007, was picked in the fourth round.

Another of Crowe's best friends is the aforementioned Ellsbury, a fellow Oregonian who had a tremendous late-season debut with the Boston Red Sox.

Crowe also says he took great pleasure in witnessing the success the Indians enjoyed as a team as they advanced to the American League Championship Series against Ellsbury's Red Sox.

"From those three standpoints, 2007 was very good," said Crowe.

The other thing of which Crowe is proud is the fact that even though he struggled as a player, it did not affect him as a person.

"I think you could talk to any of my teammates and they will tell you I was still the same guy," he said, while admitting he is now a bit humbler. "I'm now more thankful for having the ability to compete at a high level in the second half of the season," he said. "I'm much more appreciative of having success on the field and I won't take any opportunities to have success for granted from now on."

Hitting under .200 three months into a season tends to do that to you.

2008 & MINOR-LEAGUE CAREER

Team G AB H AVG HR RBI SB BB SO
Class AA Akron 49 198 64 .323 4 28 13 27 29
Class AAA Buffalo 35 146 40 .274 5 13 5 15 43
Career in minors 377 1479 406 .275 20 164 102 196 250

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