'Time to chase my dream,' Phils' top pick says

Phillies first-round draft pick J.P. Crawford. (Scott Varley/Los Angeles News Group)
Phillies first-round draft pick J.P. Crawford. (Scott Varley/Los Angeles News Group)
Posted: June 20, 2013

Phillies first-round pick J.P. Crawford was immersed in PlayStation 3 the other day when his phone buzzed with a text message.

From Philadelphia, Jimmy Rollins sent his congratulations to Crawford, the Lakewood (Calif.) High School shortstop who on Tuesday signed with the Phillies for a bonus worth $2.3 million.

"He was just saying 'Congratulations' and 'Maybe one day you can replace me,' " Crawford said Wednesday during a news conference at Citizens Bank Park.

The 18-year-old shortstop came back with a confident response.

"I'm going to take your spot right now," he said in his return text. "I don't know what you're talking about."

He was kidding, of course. Crawford, the 16th overall draft pick, will leave Thursday for Clearwater, Fla., where he will join the Phillies' Gulf Coast League club.

"It's always been my dream to play major-league baseball," Crawford said when asked about the decision to forgo a scholarship to Southern California. "I got that opportunity, so I thought, why not? It's time to chase my dream."

Assistant general manager Marti Wolever said the Phillies have signed eight of their top 10 selections from this year's draft. Washington State outfielder Jason Monda, a sixth-round selection, decided to return to school for his senior year.

In Crawford, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound lefthanded hitter, the team picked up a young player with "great baseball IQ," Phillies scout Demerius Pittman said.

"He brings his teammates up and he's always hustling on and off the field, playing the game the right way," Pittman said. "He loves the game. He does everything he can to make his team win."

Pittman first saw Crawford while scouting his high school teammate Shane Watson, whom the Phillies selected with the 40th overall pick in last year's first-year player draft. Pittman pointed out Crawford to Wolever during a Lakewood game, and after Crawford doubled to the gap in his first at-bat, Wolever pegged him as a prospect high on the draft board for 2013.

Crawford met with Rollins and first baseman Ryan Howard on Wednesday before chatting with manager Charlie Manuel on the field during batting practice.

Crawford's father, Larry, looked on as his son smiled and took in the experience. Larry Crawford played in the Canadian Football League for nine years and gave his son some advice on handling life as a professional athlete.

"I just told him, 'Hey, don't take it for granted. Go down there, work hard, because next year somebody's going to be there to take your spot,' " he said. "That's the reality of the game."

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