Crawford's speed changes the game

Carl Crawford could be the first player since Willie Mays in '57 to lead the majors in triples and stolen bases.

Originally Published: August 9, 2004
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN Insider
Billy Hatcher, first-base coach for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, is conditioned to yelling "Three! Three! Three!'' whenever Carl Crawford hits a line drive and breaks hard out of the box. Judging from the greed in Crawford's eyes and the urgency in his stride, the young man doesn't require much prompting.

Crawford, 23, is indiscriminate in adding three-baggers to his collection. Bouncers over the first baseman's head? Triples. Cue shots the opposite way? Also triples. And if an outfielder plays a carom incorrectly or makes a bobble out of panic, Crawford usually goes in standing up, without breathing hard enough to fog a mirror.

"I've been fortunate to be around a lot of great athletes, and I don't think I've ever seen anybody leave home plate with third base on their mind like Carl Crawford,'' said Rays general manager Chuck LaMar. "When he hits a ball in the outfield and it has a chance to go in the gap, he's just hit a triple that you'll have to turn into a double."

Jerry Crasnick

ESPN Senior Writer