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Nothing has ever come easy for Brandon Crawford

The scrappy rookie who could field but couldn’t hit has made himself into an offensive force. But he wasn’t always the scrappy rookie who could field, either.

San Francisco Giants Photo Day Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

“McDeep Dive” is our new series that spotlights one Giants player every day for a week. We’ll move backwards and forwards through time, look at on the field stuff, off the field stuff, and see if we can learn something new about them. Here’s part four of our look at Brandon Crawford.

My semi-desperate search for footage of Brandon Crawford at UCLA has been fruitless and, ultimately, a waste of time. But I have found several articles in UCLA’s Daily Bruin newspaper that references him. There’s even one about how he overcame adversity in his freshman year to become a true force on the UCLA baseball squad.

UCLA’s coach wanted the freshman to be playing “like sophomores” by the end of the non-conference schedule. Crawford hadn’t managed to hit that goal, and it bothered him.

“(At the beginning) I was trying to prove that I could play with the people around me,” Crawford said. “The game just seemed to play a lot faster at first.”

Crawford, knowing he hadn’t showcased the potential that got him to Westwood, came back after winter break on a mission to win the starting shortstop job.

He redoubled his efforts and finally broke through:

Crawford was able to work himself into the starting lineup as the No. 9 hitter. But he was still not completely satisfied. He batted leadoff throughout high school, he figured. Why should things change in college?

...

By the time UCLA faced then-No. 19 North Carolina State on March 3, he had secured his place as the team’s leadoff hitter. He has become one of the team’s most visible players...

And this hard work gained the attention of the juniors and seniors on the team, who took him under his wing to teach him more about the game. This article was written in May 2006. Just 25 months later, he’d be a San Francisco Giant.

Giants scouts saw the potential in his bat, but everyone knew his defense and effort would be what carried him at the start of his professional career. Indeed, it’s the main reason why he was called up at the end of May in 2011. But that bat was a liability, to the extent that the Giants were willing to sacrifice defense for the ancient bat of Orlando Cabrera.

He hit 8th for the majority of his career, but over the past few, Crawford has steadily worked his way up and up in the batting order. He led the Giants with 21 home runs in 2015 and led the team in triples (11) in 2016. And, after talking to Barry Bonds, he made some key adjustments to his swing that have made him a key figure in the Giants’ 2018 offense.

This year, he was named the starting shortstop of the All-Star Game and had the best month of his career with the bat.

Some people work hard and develop their talent, some people seem to be born with an inherent level of mind-boggling ability and either build off of or coast on that, and then there are people who have a little bit of talent but can only reach their potential with strong and steady focus and a commitment to never giving up.

Extreme effort doesn’t always mean the payoff will be the expected reward. There’s an alternative reality where Brandon Crawford tried exactly as hard as he did following that winter break freshman year and never saw the results. Success isn’t a foregone conclusion and success isn’t a goal, it’s a state of being. Crawford could’ve stopped working as hard as he did to get to that 21 home run total or those 11 triples, but he didn’t. He looked for new ways to make himself better, and every year he adds another milestone to his career ledger.