Bourn recalls LL days with Crawford

Published 11:51 pm Monday, February 21, 2011

Michael Bourn laughs at the suggestion that he is the reason Carl Crawford, his former Little League teammate, plays left field instead of center.

Bourn did win the first of his two Gold Gloves for the Houston Astros in 2009, one year before Crawford earned his first.

In fact, Bourn said if he had any influence on Crawford, his friend might have become a basketball player.

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“That was a Tampa Bay thing,” Bourn said of Crawford’s move to left field. “That was because of Josh Hamilton.”

Tampa Bay selected Hamilton with the first overall pick in the 1999 amateur draft, then picked Crawford in the second round. Crawford, a three-sport star from Jefferson Davis High School, dropped down because many major league organizations thought he was leaning toward a football scholarship offered by Nebraska.

A year behind Crawford at Nimitz High School, Bourn was most in awe of Crawford as a basketball player.

“He could have played all three,” Bourn recalled. “UCLA pursued him, but he stopped playing (before his senior year). I couldn’t believe it. He tried to tell me to stop, too, and I said, ‘Naw, man.”’

Listed as 5-foot-11, Bourn was more reluctant to give up his hoop dreams in favor of baseball. Drafted a year later by the Astros on the 19th round, he chose instead to go to the University of Houston, where he hoped to play both sports.

Soon Bourn was channeled into baseball. Twelve years and 582 stolen bases later, the former Houston Little Leaguers have achieved baseball success.

Crawford made it to the major leagues with Tampa Bay in 2002 and in December he agreed to a $142 million, seven-year contract with the Boston Red Sox.

Bourn, the NL stolen-base champion in each of the last two seasons, was drafted again by Philadelphia in 2003 and made to the majors three years later. He was sent to Houston in the Brad Lidge trade in 2007.

A few times each offseason, Bourn and Crawford get together. They train at the same Houston facility.

Aware that Crawford was approaching free agency, Bourn even suggested the possibility of joining him in the outfield of the hometown Astros.

“Yeah, I said something to him,” Bourn smiled, “but whenever you’ve got the Yankees and Boston involved, it’s kind of hard. He didn’t say he wouldn’t play in Houston, but you know, it’s kind of hard to turn down $142 million.”

With two more seasons left before he is eligible for free agency, the 28-year-old Bourn signed a $4.4 million, one-year contract this offseason to avoid arbitration.

Bourn has 173 stolen bases, almost all of them in the last three years. Crawford is second among active players with 409.

When they get together, they don’t talk much about their thefts.

“We talk about hitting more than anything,” Bourn said. “He tries to give me some tips, and I just ask him about some things he does that help him out. But, it’s hard getting it out of him. He’s one of those people that works, but he’s private with it. He’s been playing for 10 years, and that’s how it is. I respect that.”