The circumstances of my first extended interview with Carl Crawford will not be easily forgotten.
It was in the Houston Astros clubhouse on Tuesday. Carl was wearing a Red Sox jersey, borrowed Astros pants and some old spikes. He was at Minute Maid Park to film a segment for an ESPN piece and asked if I would meet him there beforehand.
The intention was to sit in the dugout, but it was so cold that we retreated to the Houston clubhouse and grabbed a couple of chairs.
The interview ranged from stories about growing up in Houston, the lucky break that brought him in contact with his mentor, Ray Bourn, and the decision to stick with baseball after Nebraska offered him a scholarship to play quarterback.
Two things struck me:
• Crawford doesn’t care about statistics one bit, a rarity for players. He has 409 stolen bases, 105 triples and 104 home runs. When I mentioned that only seven other players in history had reached those levels, he waved it off.
“That’s not what you’re really supposed to play for. I know we have to make a big deal out of it because if you don’t put up stats, you’re not very good. But when I started playing, it was just all about playing,” Crawford said. “When I got into pro ball, it was all about stats and you start thinking differently. I didn’t like that. To me, you’re just supposed to play the game. I figure if I do what I need to do, the stats will be there.”
So what motivates him?
“Everybody asks me that. What kind of personal goals I have, what kind of stats I want? I just tell them I want to win. Just win games, win championships. That’s it.”
• The other thing that surprised me was that Crawford has yet to return to Boston since his press conference back in December. Outside of swapping text messages with Terry Francona and occasional phone calls with Darnell McDonald and Mike Cameron, his contact with the Red Sox has been fairly minimal.
He’s not shy, just intensely committed to his workout regimen. Since Dec. 1, Crawford has worked out four days a week with his trainer and hit at least three days a week. He spends another day getting stretched out. Nothing, not even hunting for a place to live in Boston, has distracted him.
Carl kind of ducked his head and chuckled when I asked him about that. “That’s just how i am,” he said.
But his friend, Houston outfielder Michael Bourn, offered this explanation.
“He’s not one of those players who looks at the contract as an accomplishment. He’s going to earn that contract,” Bourn said. “He has a chance to do some great things. You tell them they’re getting a special talent up there. He’s going to show you.”
I can’t tell you whether Crawford is going to be a star in Boston. But after spending two days around him in Houston and talking to people important in his life, I can tell you he’s not taking anything for granted. That’s a good place to start.
The full story on Carl will run later on this month, just before spring training starts.