Bruce Crabbe joins the PawSox coaching staff for the first time this season. He'll work with manager Kevin Boles, pitching coach Rich Sauveur, and hitting coach Dave Joppie. But, while it's a new assignment for Crabbe as well as new spot on the coaching staff - the first time the PawSox have had a fourth coach - it's hardly anything new to Crabbe.
Entering his 10th season in the Red Sox organization, he is among the longest-tenured coaches in the system. Crabbe, 52, began his coaching career after playing in the Cubs, Braves, and Blue Jays organizations from 1984-1992. Over the past four seasons he has managed Red Sox Minor League affiliates in Lowell, Greenville, and Salem, and was the Red Sox minor league infield coordinator for four seasons before that.
This new position reflects the organization's emphasis on infield play, Crabbe's forte, said Red Sox Director of Player Development Ben Crockett.
"During the course of the year we expect to have a good number of prospects come through this level in Pawtucket," Crockett said. "And having Bruce's expertise on the infield play is going to be huge. I think adding that level of detail with just having that extra set of hands, having that fourth coach, that perspective, will allow us to better replicate what's going on at the major league level and mirror the way they do things.
"Certainly that's what we've tried to do in the past, and I think our managers and coaching staff here in Pawtucket have done a great job of that. But I think giving them an extra set of hands is going to further empower them to take each one of their individual roles a step further and be more detailed and really challenge our players within their development and within their preparation to get to Boston."
Crabbe, who grew up in Orlando, FL and was a standout third baseman at the University of Florida where he was an All-American in 1984, will also bring a measure of continuity and long-term organizational perspective to his role.
"Having guys who understand what we're about in terms of development and understanding that they are playing for the name on the front of the jersey instead of the back," said Crockett. "These guys are really diehard Red Sox employees and are extremely passionate about what they do. All four of them (Boles, Sauveur - in his 7th season with the PawSox, Joppie - in his 2nd year, and Crabbe) and trainer Jon Jochim (in his 5th season with the PawSox) are going to make an excellent Triple-A staff and I think that passion is going to seep through to the players. They see that right away.
"Just talking to the guys that we have here already who have played for Kevin and played for Bruce in the past, they also know what Rich and Dave and Jon bring to the table. I think having that continuity and structure really helps the players. It gives them something to rely on. It gives them the ability not to be hearing different messages. They're going to hear the same thing here in Pawtucket that they've heard from the start and then they're going to be hearing the same thing in Boston when they get up there."
Boles is also entering his first season with the PawSox, after managing Double-A Portland for the previous three seasons. The familiarity on the coaching staff - with each other and with the organization -- will be vital in preparing players for the next level.
"Bruce and I lived together in spring training," said Boles. "Obviously we know each other on and off the field. Working with Jop in the past in Portland, working with Savy at major league camp, just having that comfort level, and especially the guys that have been here. They've seen how the work schedule works and how the travel can play a factor, the late nights. And just to make sure we're prepared, we spend the time and do what's right by the player, make sure that we're organized and detailed."
While his new job has not been specifically defined, Crabbe is looking forward to the new challenges it will offer. He began his coaching and player development career in 1995 with the Colorado Silver Bullets, a trailblazing professional women's baseball team, before joining the Rangers organization in 1998. From 1998-2001 he served dual roles as Triple-A coach and Single-A manager, being named the Appalachian League manager of the year in 1999 when he led Pulaski to the league's best record.
"I'm looking forward to the whole gamut of it," he said. "It's a broad range of new challenges for me as far as coaching. I haven't' been a coach since 2005. But I'm used to the Triple-A coach position. I did it for parts of six years with Texas, so I'm very familiar with the necessities of Triple A, all the types of players that I'll be dealing with, experienced and non-experienced, dealing with the major league side, too. It's nothing new; it's just a new gig.
"It's always challenging when you've come from the previous year with the major league club winning the World Series like we did last year. You want to feed the club when needed with quality where it's going to fit right in. So the challenge is always the same for the most part as far as teaching, you just want to fill in those gaps where necessary. This is where it really matters."
This position will also allow Crabbe to work with some players he had at the lower levels of the organization, to gauge their development and see how they've improved since he managed them early in their professional careers. It's one of the aspects of the job he's most looking forward to.
"Absolutely," he said. "I hope some of those kids are here this year at some point in time. It gives me that pleasure of seeing the development and that you've had a piece in it from the start to this next level, which is almost the ultimate spot where they want to be and need to be. I feel some of the players that I've had who have come through my teachings, I think they respect what I've been able to do with them, and I think they trust me, and I think that's an obstacle that won't need to be addressed this year.
"That's a huge part of coaching, gaining that trust, and knowing that they know what you're saying to them is meant to be helpful and is going to help them get to that next level, and obviously if they have taken anything that I've given them and they see the benefits, it makes it that much more rewarding."