As a reward for being one of the nation’s top high school baseball prospects, LSU signee Dylan Crews has already had some dream-come-true moments having played in such major league stadiums as Chicago’s Wrigley Field, San Diego’s Petco Park and Cleveland’s Progressive Field.
When it came time to make major league teams his professional residence, Crews, a projected first-round 2020 MLB draft pick ranked as the 35th best player in the draft by CBSsports.com., opted for the road less traveled for someone with his talent.
First round selections usually head nearly straight from their respective high school graduations, sign a lucrative pro contract and are in the minor leagues a month after their senior proms.
Crews, 6-foot, 210-pound centerfielder who prepped at Longwood (Fla.) Lake Mary High, saw value in going to college. He decided it was more advantageous to develop as a player in the SEC, the toughest baseball conference in America where upper echelon programs in state-of-the-art stadiums easily outdraw their minor league counterparts.
It was an opportunity Crews believed too good to pass up. He withdrew his name from coronavirus-shortened MLB draft to attend LSU. He committed to the Tigers three years ago, signed last November and stayed true to his word.
“My ultimate dream was to go to LSU, be an icon, be a dude there,” Crews said. “I want to get drafted out of college in 2023. I wanted to play for (LSU) coach (Paul) Mainieri because the coaching staff there was all that I wanted. Throughout this whole process I wanted to go to LSU. It’s something I always wanted to do.
“I wanted to develop my game, there’s no shortcuts in baseball. There wasn’t a better opportunity I could have than LSU. I know by going there, I’ll mature as a player, I’m going to be a better outfielder, be a better hitter and experience going to Omaha and hopefully win a national championship. I want to be the best player that I can when I re-enter the draft in 2023.”
Crews has been able to refine his skills this summer after having his senior season at Lake Mary reduced to eight games because of the coronavirus pandemic. He’s been able to work out (adding 15 pounds of muscle) and remain sharp, driving to nearby Sanford, Fla. along with 20 other players, to an indoor/outdoor training facility.
They took turns hitting four days a week and faced live pitching once a week.
When he received a summer assignment to play with the Sanford River Rats of the Florida Collegiate Summer League – a 20-minute trip from home – Crews was primed to resume playing competitive baseball in his final preparation for his first season at LSU.
“I’m going to give it all that I’ve got from the first inning until the last inning,” Crews said of his approach at LSU. “I’m never going to take a play off. I’m also going to be a really good person off the field, too. I’m going to be very welcoming. Hopefully I can make my name there.”
Crews first gained nationwide notoriety as a member of Team USA’s U15 team. He earning a second invitation with a selection to the U18 national team.
Both opportunities, which included play against international teams, proved immeasurable.
Regarded as a player with the ability to hit to all fields with power, Crews later participated in such national showcase events in Wrigley Field (Under Armour All-American Game), Petco Park (Perfect Game American Game) and Progressive Field (High School All-Star Game sponsored by MLB/USA Baseball).
Crews’ ascent appeared favorable, that he would wind up playing professionally in the not-too-distant future.
Before the start of summer ball in 2019, Crews was rated as high as the 12th best player (including college players) in the 2020. But it was chronicled that he endured a ‘tough’ summer which caused a dip in his draft stock.
Among the litany of mock drafts that were released ahead of this year’s draft, which was reduced to five rounds because of the COVID-19 health scare, Crews found himself on the cusp of being a first-round selection.
It didn’t matter.
Just over a week before the draft Crews met with his parents and withdrew his name. He was bound for LSU.
“I thought about it every day and what I wanted to do whether it was going to college or the draft,” Crews said. “I’d always go back to college. I didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity. I wanted to experience this. It’s years that you can’t take back. It’s a special place.
“Throughout the recruiting process. I was always open. I never had a favorite school and visited many schools. As soon as I set foot on LSU’s campus, you could just feel it. The fans there are unbelievable. They’re crazy. I love them. They’re very welcoming. And I won’t go hungry because the food there was amazing.”
So instead of watching one of the nation’s top prospects with whom they had invested three years of recruiting and relationship-building take the pro money and run, LSU will reap the benefits. The next three years, the Tigers will be able to build around Crews, who entered his senior season as the nation’s No. 13 overall player, fifth-ranked center fielder and second-ranked player in Florida.
Crews recalled with great delight the phone call he made to Mainieri once he pulled his name out of the draft.
“He was very excited, the whole coaching staff was,” Crews said of Mainieri. “As soon as I heard LSU was interested, it was definitely an eye-opener for me. LSU was always on my mind and the best decision I made. I’ll be in the same position in 2023 as a lot of these guys that were drafted this year. The competition in the SEC is the same as rookie ball or single or double-A ball. I’m very excited to play in the SEC and compete against these great players and go to war with my boys.”