Crawford key in helping youth baseball

Crawford key in helping youth baseball

ST. PETERSBURG -- Carl Crawford brings it, on and off the field.

The Rays left fielder is one of the most exciting players in baseball, and he's showing a willingness to be a player who gives back to his community.

In recognition of Crawford's off-the-field work, he has been nominated to be the Rays' candidate for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award.

The award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team. It is named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder whose spirit and goodwill will always be remembered. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972. The winner will be announced during the World Series.

"We're very proud to nominate Carl Crawford for the Roberto Clemente Award, through his work with Little Leagues in Houston, the Little Leagues he's adopted, and the work he's done as the player sponsor for the West Tampa Little League renovation," said Rays director of community relations Suzanne Murchland. "I think Carl is helping spread the magic of baseball to the youth in the Tampa Bay area."

In March, Crawford led a Rays contingent to the West Tampa Little League Field, where the organization announced they had selected the historic Little League site for the team's next field to be refurbished under the Rays Field Renovation Program.

When Crawford signed a long-term deal with the Rays prior to the 2005 season, he let it be known that if the team was willing to make a financial commitment to him, he wanted to make a financial commitment to the Rays Baseball Foundation, which helps fuel the program.

"This is just a way for me to kind of give back, I guess," Crawford said. "[It's] just something that's going to be positive for the organization in helping youth baseball in the area.

"You always want to try to do something to help younger kids. So when I have an opportunity like this, I want to take advantage of it."

The Rays Baseball Foundation teamed up with Crawford, the city of Tampa, J.O. DeLotto and Sons, Metro PCS and Bryant Heating and Cooling on the project. West Tampa Little League is the second field to be refurbished under the Rays Field Renovation Program, which is dedicated to rebuilding youth fields throughout the Tampa Bay region. In 2006, historic Oliver Field at Campbell Park in St. Petersburg underwent a major overhaul.

Crawford said he gets more out of helping the kids than they get from receiving his help.

Roberto Clemente Day

"At some point, I'm going to be in it way more," said Crawford of his community involvement. "Just right now, it's the early stages. I'm just trying to see how all this stuff works."

Having Crawford show interest in their little corner of the world means a lot to the kids he touches.

"Carl is a well-known name on the Devil Rays," Murchland said. "Kids see him be involved in the field renovation. He will be doing a clinic with the kids when the renovation is wrapped up. And for him to take that time out and help show them the finer points of baseball, means a lot to these kids, it really does."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.