PHOENIX – When former Oakland Athletics infielder Bobby Crosby won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 2004, he felt as though he was on top of the world.
In his first full season, Crosby hit .239 batting average, belted 22 home runs, drove in 64 and doubled 34 times in 151 games. While his .239 average was the lowest average for any Rookie of the Year winner at the time, Crosby was still named on 27 ballots.
While success for Crosby came quickly in the big leagues, it abandoned him just as fast. Plagued by injuries, he would never play as many games again in his nine years in the majors. He would never hit as many home runs or drive in as many runners.
When the door to his playing career closed, it took Crosby time to find the one that would open to his future. When he did, baseball was still waiting on the other side.
He found a niche in teaching and coaching, returned to the Athletics organization and is now managing the Mesa Solar Sox during the Arizona Fall League.
“I wish I could’ve stuck in there and played longer,” Crosby said before managing the Solar Sox in a recent triple header at Chase Field. “Injuries kind of derailed me a little bit. But I don’t have regrets. I gave everything I had, and I played hard, and it was my time to be done playing. Everything works out the way it’s supposed to.”
Selected by the Anaheim Angels in the 34th round of the 1998 MLB Draft out of high school, Crosby opted to play at California State University, Long Beach, then was drafted 25th overall by the Athletics in 2001. He made his major league debut as a September call-up in 2003.
Crosby would play with the Athletics for seven out of his nine years in the major leagues, which included a brief stint with the Arizona Diamondbacks. It fulfilled his childhood dream of playing for the A’s, his favorite team growing up.
However, he retired in 2013 after failing to make the Milwaukee Brewers spring training team.
“(The) A’s have been my whole life. I grew up a fan and then obviously played there for most of my career and now being part of it again, it’s full circle,” Crosby said.
In 2018, Crosby began giving baseball lessons and realized all that coaches and fellow players had given him in the past. It reignited his passion for the game. He has been back in the Oakland organization since 2019.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this is something that I could do.’ And I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in baseball, but I realized I wanted to get back in the game,” Crosby said. “So I reached out to the A’s and said I’d like to do this, but in what capacity? I don’t know.
“And then I started coaching and realized that I loved it. It’s something that I can give back to these guys and give them information, wisdom; it’s awesome.”
Crosby officially joined the Athletics coaching staff shortly after with the club’s Instructional League team and felt like he was back where he belonged. Crosby was supposed to manage Oakland’s Single-A affiliate, the Stockton Ports, in 2020, but the season was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, the A’s named him manager of the Midland RockHounds, the club’s Double-A affiliate.
“It’s everything (to me). I get to help them fulfill their dreams,” Crosby said. “I had my time and to be a part of their growth and see them get better and achieve something that I was fortunate enough to do. It’s everything for me. I love it.”
Athletics prospects Michael Guldberg and Zack Gelof had the opportunity to play under Crosby and believed that the wisdom that he has instilled in them has allowed them to be better players, and appreciate the opportunity to learn from someone who has the professional experience.
“Well, I mean, he’s just been around the game for so long, so it’s pretty cool for us to be in a clubhouse with him and hang out with him. And obviously he has so much baseball wisdom that he gives us on a daily basis, and I’m really thankful to that,” Guldberg said.
Crosby has earned the title of “players’ coach,” and Guldberg says that he takes the time to relate to prospects as he has once been in their shoes.
“He just loves to share his playing experience and he loves to do that in a way that’s gonna make us the best big leaguers possible,” Guldberg said. “When guys say ‘player coach,’ they really want to know that he’s doing everything for the player, and he really does do that.”
Gelof says that the minor leagues are monotonous, but with the Fall League, Crosby has had the opportunity to teach new players. “It’s been cool because he relates to us for many reasons and he used to be here as a player,” Gelof said.
With the Solar Sox, Crosby is also instilling wisdom in minor leaguers that aren’t part of the Oakland organization. But teaching is what it’s all about for Crosby.
“I genuinely love the guys and care about them,” he said. “And I try to give them any advice I can give on what helped me or what hurt me. So, they know that, at the end of the day, I genuinely really want the best from them.
“I hope to instill passion, work, caring about each other, being a good teammate, being a good person, doing things the right way. I want them to care about each other and play baseball the way it’s meant to be played and give it all so that, at the end of the day, they don’t have any regrets.
“I think a lot of them, they’re going to have an opportunity to play in the big leagues. So, if I could be a small part of that, that’d be great.”