This story was originally published on June 29. We have updated it to reflect Dylan Crews being drafted No. 2 overall by the Nationals.
The vacant brick building on North Elm Avenue in Sanford, Fla., might not look like much. But to Dylan Crews, it represents the beginning of a big league dream and what he plans to do when that dream comes true.
That dream could come true soon after Crews, an accomplished junior outfielder at Louisiana State University, was selected second overall by the Nationals in the 2023 MLB Draft. And on the heels of one of the greatest offensive seasons in college baseball history -- leading the national champion Tigers with a .426 average and 1.280 OPS -- the 21-year-old Crews appears to have the pitch recognition, power, bat speed and athleticism to advance up the professional ranks quickly.
But the native of Lake Mary, Fla., believes none of this would be possible if not for that old warehouse where, at a young age, he swung a broomstick at ping pong balls and smacked tires with a sledgehammer.
“I love that place, man,” Crews said. “That place has a special place in my heart. That’s the place that really got me into this game.”
Crews has such an affinity for the warehouse that he has its GPS coordinates sewn into the glove he wore throughout his LSU career.
The warehouse was run by Moe Pesce, an elderly Mets scout who initially opened the facility to train his grandson, Joseph. Crews played ball with the younger Pesce, and so he began to train with Moe, too.
“When my grandpa and I first met Dylan, he caught our eyes with his sweet and smooth swing,” Joseph Pesce said. “It didn’t matter what day or time it was, he would always ask to come train and hit.”
Moe’s methods were old-school, honed in part from his days scouting in the Dominican Republic. Boxing speed bags, wrist curls and heavy bats filled with five pounds of sand were what shaped the bat speed that is now Crews’ calling card.
“It was a difficult place,” Crews says. “You know, a big ol’ warehouse with no AC. We’re in there hitting tires with bats. Our tee was a bucket with a PVC pipe in the middle, and you put cement at the bottom of it to make sure that the PVC pipe would stay there. Every time it fell down, you’d duct tape it to get it back.”
Crews would train at the warehouse just about every day from age 11 to 14.
His father, George, laughs at the memory.
“This was like Rocky Balboa doing all the crazy training stuff,” George said. “That’s exactly what it was. Moe’s flinging ping pong balls out of a pitching machine, and they’re coming all over the place, and Dylan’s swinging at them to get his hand-eye coordination. All this stuff is what Dylan loved. He’s a gym rat.”
Moe Pesce passed away at the age of 80 in 2017, when Crews was a freshman in high school. But while Crews went on to work with other coaches and incorporate more modern methods on his unstoppable path to the pros, he never forgot what that place meant to him.
That’s why he plans to buy it.
“I think it’s up for sale right now,” he said slyly. “Maybe a purchase, I don’t know. It would be a cool story if I purchased it.”
It is, indeed, up for sale -- for the not-so-bargain price of $4 million.
George Crews is less ambiguous about his son's intentions, though he notes some significant negotiation is in order.
“He is going to buy it,” he said of his son. “The price right now is really, extremely high. The evaluation is not where it needs to be. But I visited it, I toured it, and I gave Dylan all the specs. At some point in time, it is going to happen.”
Crews is not far from a sizable signing bonus and, perhaps, an MLB paycheck. So maybe he’ll make good on his plan to reopen a facility where hungry kids like him can learn the finer points of hitting.
So he has big plans not just for what he can do on the field during his upcoming professional career but how he can use his platform to benefit others.
And to his LSU teammates, this is no surprise.
“Honestly, everything about him is just big league,” said Paul Skenes, the LSU ace who went first overall in the Draft. “That dude, whether he knows it or not or tries to or not, is a leader. He brings people up with him every single day, which is awesome to have as a teammate.”
Crews and Skenes became the first teammates to be selected 1-2. Crews put himself in this prominent position after bowing out of the Draft when his senior season at Lake Mary High School was cut short by COVID. He had been getting first-round interest in high school, but he made the decision to bet on himself.
“At that time I felt like I wasn’t the best player leading up to the Draft,” he said. “I felt like there was still a lot to improve, and here at LSU they had all the resources that I need. So I just trusted my gut.”
Now he is considered by many to be the best position player leading up to the Draft. He arrived at LSU looking to align himself with such Tigers legends as Joe Burrow, Shaquille O’Neal and Alex Bregman as one of the school’s all-time greats, and he’s done exactly that.
“It’s the best decision he ever made,” the elder Crews said.
During a freshman year in which Crews was a first-team All-American, Bregman called his shot:
While Crews just missed out on being the top overall pick, he seems to have the level head it would take to not let the pressures of being the second overall pick get to him. His play is the flashiest thing about him … with the possible exception of a considerable collection of cleats, such as the custom SpongeBob pair he wore for LSU’s opener this year.
“I’ve probably got, like, 100 pairs,” he said. “You should see my room, man. I’ve got cleats stacked up in my room. I’ve got to get rid of some pairs. But I love doing it. It brings out personality. I think more players should do it. It’s cool.”
Perhaps, if the dream comes true, other players will one day be swinging sledgehammers at tires in that old, hot warehouse in Sanford, following the sweat-stained blueprint that made Dylan Crews a baseball star.