Crews enters new chapter, but he's keeping an old mindset

February 18th, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Before outfielder reported for his first Major League Spring Training, he had a visit to make. It was a very familiar place, but this time, in a different chapter in his career.

Crews threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the LSU home opener on Friday following his decorated collegiate tenure. Two days later, the second overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft arrived at the CACTI Park of the Palm Beaches for Nationals camp.

“Super excited, super excited, ready to get going here,” Crews said Sunday morning. “I feel like I belong in this locker room right now. [I am] ready to get going with these guys and get acclimated with them.”

The Nationals clubhouse is stacked with top prospects this spring. The 21-year-old Crews, the club's No. 1 prospect and baseball's No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline, sits at a locker next to James Wood (Nationals No. 2, MLB No. 14), Brady House (Nationals No. 3, No. 48 overall), Robert Hassell III (Nationals No. 8), Trey Lipscomb (No. 14), Nasim Nuñez (No. 23) and Darren Baker (No. 25).

“I feel like I belong here, but there's still a job to do at the end of the day, no matter if it was big league camp or Minor League camp,” he said. “The game doesn't change. There's always four bases, there's always a pitcher and a catcher and a hitter up there. So it didn’t matter if I was in Minor League or big league camp, I was going to play the same.”

Crews is coming off a whirlwind 2023 where LSU won the College World Series, he won the Golden Spikes Award and the Nationals selected him with their highest MLB Draft pick in years, elevating Crews to Double-A in his first taste of the Minors.

“That was about 11 months straight of just baseball: 30 games in the fall, 70-game season and then 30 more games in pro ball,” Crews said. “I kind of know what to expect now.”

The grind of last year helped prepare Crews for his first full season of pro ball. He described the mental aspect as more challenging than the physical, noting that he'd, "never done anything like that." During Spring Training, the Nationals want him to continue soaking up new learning experiences.

“The thing about him that I’ve learned in a short period of time, he understands who he is,” manager Dave Martinez said. “He knows where he’s at, he knows what he needs to do. He’s quiet, but yet he has a sense of leadership and you can see that.”

Crews trained this offseason in Louisiana with fellow LSU alums, including Paul Skenes, the No. 3 prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline, Brayden Jobert and Nats prospect Gavin Dugas. Along with the work, he found time for hobbies like fishing and video games while honing in on nutrition and sleep.

“It was the first month I’ve had to myself in a long time -- probably 12 years,” Crews said. “It’s been a while since I’ve had that, so it was good. I had a great offseason.”

When Crews delivered that ceremonial first pitch on Friday at LSU, he said that the moment, "almost felt like I was passing the baton a little bit.” He made his mark on college baseball, and now, he's taking the next steps toward doing so in the bigs.

“Nothing’s changing,” Crews said. “It’s going to be the same person that you guys have been seeing in the little short period of pro ball and in college. So I’m going to go out here and just give it all and see what happens."