Giants rookie Schmitt finds perfect mentor in Crawford originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Casey Schmitt’s first road game in the big leagues included four hits, a long homer, three RBI and a couple of reminders that he has a rocket launcher attached to his right shoulder. But when the Giants rookie looks back on that game years from now, the most meaningful moment might be a conversation he had after the bottom of the second inning at Chase Field in Phoenix.
Schmitt fielded a grounder in the bottom of the second and started an inning-ending double play, but he didn’t make it back to the bench. As Schmitt got back to the dugout, he sat down on the steps and had a long conversation with Brandon Crawford. It provided a glimpse of what’s been going on behind the scenes since Schmitt walked into big league camp for the first time.
Schmitt could not have found a better mentor than the best shortstop in franchise history, and Crawford has been a very willing teacher.
“He’s been awesome with me,” Schmitt said on Monday’s Giants Talk Podcast. “Any time I have a question I just kind of go up and ask him about it, especially during the Arizona series. I went over there and there was that play in the hole. I just asked him what I should do differently and what he would have done and an inning later I got a similar play. It was a backhand. I looked at him and he looked at me. It was a funny moment.”
It was appropriate that it took place at Chase Field, because that’s where Crawford played his first Opening Day as the full-time starter at shortstop. He has been there just about every game in the dozen years since, but Gabe Kapler has used Schmitt’s emergence to try and lighten some of the workload in recent weeks.
The Giants came into the season hoping that Crawford could be on a sort of two-games-on, one-game-off plan, similar to what worked so well for Buster Posey in 2021. Schmitt allows them to comfortably do that, but when both are feeling good, the preference will still be to have Crawford at shortstop.
After a day off on Thursday, Kapler went with Crawford at short and Schmitt at third, a welcome sign for all of the club’s pitchers. Late in the win on Friday, Crawford provided a reminder that the team is still at its best when he’s healthy and playing a strong shortstop.
For Crawford, the mentorship role is nothing new. He helped ease Joe Panik and Matt Duffy into the big leagues years ago and was instrumental in onboarding Mauricio Dubon, who grew up idolizing Crawford. A few hours before he made some pointed comments in Houston earlier this month, Dubon lit up and said he still texts Crawford whenever the veteran makes a good play or hits a homer.
“Everybody asks me who is the one guy who has helped me the most in my career and it’s been him,” Dubon said.
“He’s been very influential in the big leagues for me.”
The Schmitt situation, of course, is a bit different. Crawford’s contract expires at the end of this season and Schmitt has been good enough at shortstop that the Giants could turn it over to him as soon as next year. That dynamic hasn’t kept Crawford from helping out, though.
Schmitt tried to soak up as much as he could when the two were together in big league camp, although he needed some help initially. He was taking grounders on a back field one day when he saw Crawford sitting on the steps. Logan Webb introduced the two infielders.
“Logan was like, ‘Hey, come here, this is Brandon Crawford,'” Schmitt said, smiling. “I was like, ‘I know who that is.’ It was very cool to go up there and meet him for the first time.”
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Schmitt said he has felt right at home since being called up, and the Giants are hoping that’s the same for Patrick Bailey, who has quite a bit more exposure to a big league clubhouse. Bailey was at summer camp at Oracle Park in 2020 just a few weeks after getting drafted and spent the last three springs in big league camp. He has followed Buster Posey around at times, while also learning from the veteran pitchers.
While the Crawford-Schmitt mentorship is an easy one to connect the dots on, Bailey and other future call-ups might find an environment more similar to what Crawford entered when he was a rookie. Back then, pitchers like Javier Lopez and Matt Cain were among the most helpful veterans in the clubhouse.
“Craw has been great with Casey and I think there’s a bit of a community approach to helping Casey develop and get his feet wet,” Kapler said. “I think the same is true for Pat. From Craig Albernaz to Joey Bart to Blake Sabol to some degree, all of our pitchers, Andrew Bailey, the rest of our coaching staff — there’s a bit of a community approach here to player development .”
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