SAN FRANCISCO — Brandon Crawford, the Giants’ steady, soft-spoken franchise shortstop, has never sought out the spotlight.
At times, through a career of defensive highlights, clutch hits and a pair of parades down Market Street, it has been unavoidable. And it will shine on him once more Sunday afternoon as Giants fans celebrate his decorated 13-year run in San Francisco, which may well come to an end the same afternoon.
Crawford, 36, confirmed he plans to play after missing the past week with a hamstring strain.
“For the most part I’m trying to take it like another game and not build it up too much or put too much pressure on myself,” Crawford said before Saturday’s penultimate game of the season. “With as much as it’s being talked about, it’s kind of hard to.”
Crawford, the franchise leader with 1,616 games at shortstop, does not yet know his plans beyond this season. He is set to be a free agent, and the recent hamstring strain was his fourth trip to the injured list this season, the kind of stop-and-start year that has made it the most frustrating and least productive of his career.
Whether or not he views it as a farewell, Crawford will be showered with support from fans — and team officials have some plans of their own in the works.
Crawford’s four children — Braylyn, 10; Jaydyn, 9; Braxton, 7; and Bryson, 5 — will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Or, pitches.
“That’s a big thing for the family, for sure,” said Crawford, whose wife, Jalynne, has a fifth on the way.
How are the kids’ arms?
“Inconsistent,” Crawford smiled. “That’s why we were working on it.”
In between practicing their first pitches, Crawford watched his two daughters front-flipping back-and-forth behind the batting cage. Scores of fans came up to ask for a picture, to shake his hand, to get an autograph, and Crawford obliged them all, as he almost always does.
Crawford has felt the outpouring of adoration from fans leading up to his possible finale.
“Just thanking me for everything I’ve done for the Giants and stuff like that,” he said. “It’s like, my pleasure. I enjoyed all of it, too.”
Indeed, Crawford has been living out his dream this entire time.
He’s the kid who was photographed pleading for the team to stay in 1992. The Little Leaguer who boldly predicted he would be the starting shortstop for the San Francisco Giants one day, and then made it come true. The son of season ticket holders who had no idea their first-row seats down the third base line would one day provide them the opportunity to watch their then-13-year-old tread the dirt directly in front of them.
That is not lost on interim manager Kai Correa, who will be responsible for penciling in Crawford’s name on the lineup card and what follows, whether he takes one at-bat, plays all nine innings or somewhere in between.
“His career is too illustrious and what he means to the organization and the city is too much to go about that half-baked,” Correa said. “So we’re going to be thoughtful as a group, our staff, the medical staff who’s been with him for a long time, (longtime infield coach Ron Wotus), the folks on the business side, everyone involved who care deeply about him and are very grateful for him, and think about the best way to curate the celebration.
“I’m hopeful we can manufacture some moments where he gets his flowers, appropriately so.”
Asked if there was anything left on his baseball bucket list, Crawford said he hadn’t given it much thought.
The last remaining item — pitching — he checked off earlier this season.
So, how can the Giants make Sunday special?
“I don’t know,” Crawford said.
How about playing all nine positions?
“Eh, it’d be kind of cool,” Crawford said. “Catching, I wouldn’t like very much. Doesn’t seem very fun.”
Maybe the most appropriate sendoff would be to treat Sunday like any other day.
It might even be what Crawford would prefer.
But it’s unavoidable. The spotlight will shine his way one more time.
The generations of Giants fans who followed his career wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Being the center of attention isn’t my favorite thing in the world,” Crawford said. “But I feel like for the most part, my career and my life I don’t get too hyped up or anxious. Just trying to take it as it comes.”
When Crawford’s time in San Francisco comes to an end, the Giants will lose their last remaining tie to their World Series era.
Against Clayton Kershaw on Saturday, they rolled out a lineup that they hope will form the core of their next championship roster.
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Luis Matos, Tyler Fitzgerald and Heliot Ramos made up the outfield. Tristan Beck and Patrick Bailey made up the battery. And the left side of the infield was occupied by Marco Luciano and Casey Schmitt. That’s seven rookies, accompanied by just three veterans (Wilmer Flores, Thairo Estrada and Austin Slater).
“What a fun challenge,” Correa said. “You’ve got one of the generation’s best pitchers matched up against a whole bunch of rookies. It will essentially be the culmination of their debut seasons. It’s a fun collision.”
Twelve different players made their major-league debuts for the Giants this season.
“The thing that excites me the most about the group is the ceiling,” Correa said. “You’re seeing a lot made about athleticism on this team, and when you look at this group of 12 rookies, you have a pretty high ceiling in terms of athleticism. I think their quest over the offseason and as they move into their second season is raising the floor, closing the gap between their peak ability that we’ve seen in really bright spots since their debuts and raising the floor of consistency. I think that’s the difference between them and quality major-league regulars.”