It was the COVID summer of 2020, Dylan Crews had already decided to withdraw his name from the MLB Draft out of high school at Lake Mary in the Orlando, Florida suburbs. He could have been a Top-20 pick that year and signed for over $2 million — but instead, everything told him to honor his college commitment at LSU — and he did. It proved to be the smartest thing he said he ever did.
“I was an 18 year old kid, and I didn’t feel like I was developed enough. My gut told me to take myself out [of the draft], and experience that college life. It was a bet on myself. The best decision I ever made. … I couldn’t thank [LSU] Coach Jay [Johnson] enough for this opportunity because without him nothing like this is possible.”
— Crews said about his decision to withdraw his name from the draft out of high school
He was also allowed to play that summer after graduating high school for the Sanford River Rats in the Florida Collegiate Summer League — even though Crews never spent a day on campus as a student to that point. But he qualified to play for the league as an incoming freshman which is rare for any collegiate summer league. Crews knew the coach, Josh Montero.
A lot in life is about who you know, but also surrounding yourself in people that actually care about you. Montero is that type of person. Besides coaching, he runs the Barrel Factory in Sanford, Florida.
“… Looking back, I really don’t think I could be in this position without surrounding myself with the right people and sacrificing a whole lot to get to this point. I’m ready to get going. The game doesn’t change.”
— Crews said at his introductory press conference yesterday
Crews began working with Montero on hitting during his COVID-shortened senior year of high school. The Montero/Crews relationship started through Moe Pesce almost a decade ago. Pesce was a former MLB scout for the New York Mets and Crews’ hitting coach growing up. Unfortunately, Pesce passed away at the age of 80 as Crews just began high school. Their days in Pesce’s warehouse back in the day is another story you must read. When their story abruptly ended after Pesce passed away, it eventually led to Montero being a big part of Crews’ life from high school through college — and even now. Montero was pitching to Crews this past week which certainly helped when Crews impressed everyone in his batting practice yesterday at Nationals Park.
“It’s the safest first pick in the draft in the past 70-years. Dylan is a face of the franchise type player, and nobody more worthy than being a face of the franchise of the Washington Nationals. He is a better person than a player. … He’s like a son to me.”
— Montero told us
To get a wood bat season under his belt with the collegiate summer league was a key for Crews at just 18 years old. He held his own in the 17-games he played, batting .314 against all older players with real college experience. Crews hit two home runs that summer and his .883 OPS was fifth highest on the team. All of those four ahead of him were aged 19-to-23 years old. Crews was second on the team with two home runs, and just one dinger behind Tom Josten, who was 21 at the time.
The River Rats went on to win the league championship. The 21-game season during the difficult times of the pandemic drew the team of 32 college kids close. So close that a few decided to get matching tattoos that read “Always Remember.” Even Montero got tatted up on his forearm.
“That tattoo has a lot of meaning for me.”
Crews told us back in May.
After two college transfers, Brayden Jobert, who was another teammate on that River Rats team, finally made it to LSU in 2022 thanks to Crews. Of all of the River Rats players, only Jobert was a collegiate teammate of Crews at LSU and a National Champion.
Even those who played against Crews have positive things to say about Crews. One of them was a coach with a familiar name — Eric Martinez, brother of Nats’ manager Dave Martinez. Eric Martinez coached at a competing high school near Orlando, and had to face Crews.
The Kid was a tough out!! Played the game the right way! He really has put in the work the last few years . He wasn’t that big [back then] . Definitely put in the work in the weight room!
I remember he was a super patient hitter who drove the ball the other way very well .
— Martinez told us
Going back to when Crews played travel ball, his Scorpions coach, Bob Rikeman, was a former scout in the White Sox organization, and was an integral part of Crews’ teenage years.
Dylan was a kid who always played up with us on our travel team, and has always looked like that kid who was the best. He did things at his age that others can’t do. In college when I watched him, he took what the game gave him. He didn’t force it. I think he will [adapt] to the pro game well.
— Rikeman told us
Past players and coaches and anyone that has seen Crews play or has been around him has had positive things to say. A common theme is that Crews is an exceptional person.
“He [had] proven over the course of 3 years [at LSU] that he can play an elite centerfield while also continuing to improve his offensive numbers even with teams constantly pitching around him. I’m obviously a little biased, but I’ve had the privilege of getting to know and watch Dylan for the last 3 years and the talent is exceptional, but the make-up may be even better. He’s had every eyeball on him for 3 years looking to pick apart his game and all he’s done is validate and further solidify what everyone already knew. He’s the best player in college baseball.”
One person who knows Crews really well is his college coach, Jay Johnson. He was in attendance at the Crews introductory news conference. We have pages of quotes from Johnson about Crews over the past few months, and the one that stands out recently will tell you how Johnson views Crews in comparison to the thousand of college players that Johnson has seen in his 22 years of coaching.
“Dylan is the best college player I’ve ever seen.”
— LSU head coach Johnson said
A lesson to be learned is to surround yourself with good people. Crews has done that. As Crews said, he didn’t think he could be in this position without surrounding himself with the right people. There you have it — and always remember.