Jim Leyland had a front-row seat of watching slick-fielding shortstop Brandon Crawford crush his heart as the Giants swept his Tigers in the 2012 World Series. Over four years later, Leyland is now all smiles as Crawford will be on his side this time.
Earlier in the week, Crawford confirmed to Team USA manager Leyland that he intends to play for him in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
"I talked with him on the field during the playoffs [in 2014], and I expressed to him that he is -- without question -- one of my favorite players in the big leagues today," Leyland said to MLB.com. "I love the way he plays the game. I love the way he goes about his business."
Crawford hit .250/.308/.250 in the 2012 Fall Classic against Leyland's Tigers.
"He is in, as of now," Leyland said on Crawford. "He's fired up about it, and so am I. I'm just thrilled about it, that he's accepted the invitation."
Crawford is coming off a season in which he won his second straight Gold Glove Award in arguably his best all-around season. The 29-year-old set a multitude of career highs in 2016, including batting average (.275), on-base percentage (.342), hits (155), triples (11), RBI (84), runs scored (67), and stolen bases (7). On defense, Crawford also set a career high in fielding percentage (.983).
For Leyland, Crawford is the definition of a pure baseball player. "He's one of those guys where, to me, you talk about athletes and you talk about baseball players," Leyland added. "He's a baseball player. He's a good athlete, obviously, but I look for baseball players."
Notably, when Crawford beat Leyland in the World Series, it was the first of two rings he's won with the Giants in his six-year career. On the biggest stage, Crawford has continued to deliver. In 11 World Series games, Crawford has slashed .286/.350/.286 with 10 hits and five RBI.
"In just about every situation I've ever seen him, he makes big plays," said Leyland. "He does it all. He knocks in runs. He makes big plays in the field. He'll run into one [and hit a home run].
"He's a big-time player on a big stage. That's one of the reasons I was so interested in him. He's come out on top quite a bit. He's the kind of guy you want on your team."