SAN FRANCISCO — All the way back in 2000, when Lynn and Mike Crawford transferred their season tickets from Candlestick to the Giants’ brand new waterfront ballpark, there was no way they were securing front row seats to watch their son fulfill his wildest dreams.
Brandon Crawford was 13.
On Friday, his parents will take a front row seat at the third baseline, and they will watch him reclaim his position as shortstop for the 1,531st time in his career, for the 12th consecutive year in the Giants’ home opener, more alive than ever wondering how many are left.
Crawford, 36, has started more games at shortstop than anyone in Giants history and has logged more games exclusively at that position than all but two players in MLB history (Luis Aparicio and Ozzie Smith). It’s what he planned to do since he was 5 years old. But time comes for everyone, and it almost came for Crawford last season. His contract expires after this season and he says he is not sure what his future holds beyond 2023.
“I feel like more than a decade has passed so quickly,” says Lynn. “I’m not ready for it to end. I don’t want to believe it’s the last one.”
For as much a dream come true as Brandon, the past 12 years have been just as special for those close to him: his parents, his three sisters, his wife, Jalynne, and their four children (with a fifth on the way). ).
Mike and Lynn met at a softball game and set up one of their first dates in Candlestick Park. Before Brandon was born, before the iconic photo of him at age 5, holding a sign begging the team not to move to Florida, Mike and Lynn were season ticket holders — in San Francisco and at their spring training home in Scottsdale.
“If Mike, a lifelong Giants fan, is raising a son who will end with the career he has had, what more could you ask for in your life? That’s just the pinnacle. That’s the father’s dream,” says Lynn. “For me, as a mom, I just want my kids to be happy and never give up on their dreams and live the life they want.”
Lynn finds herself spending more time in the family area behind home plate than in her season ticket seats. Here she can be with her grandchildren, Braylyn (10), Jaydyn (9), Braxton (7) and Bryson (4). An empty nest when Brandon entered the majors, the Crawford household now gives way to a fifth addition, Jalynne recently announced on social media.
It’s just another way Crawford has manifested his dreams.
“He kind of mapped it out,” says Lynn. “He even wanted to become a husband and start a big family.”
It’s a family lore that when Brandon’s teeball coach asked the kids’ team to tell a little about themselves, the Crawford boy replied by saying, “Well, you should know that one day I’ll be shortstop for the Giants .” As he got older, he spent his free time throwing baseballs off walls to practice his defense, the basis of his four Gold Glove awards.On Friday nights he didn’t play quarterback at Foothill High, he sat in the batting cages .
Last season, playing at Minnesota’s Target Field for the first time, Crawford hit another long-held goal. He had played in all 30 major league ballparks. Jalynne was him with each of them.
At the start of each season, Jalynne prints out three schedules—Brandon’s with the Giants and their kids’ school and sports calendars—and begins charting the year. They try not to be apart for more than two weeks, even if it means missing the occasional day of school or a child’s workout, often navigating airports with luggage for five before boarding a non -glamorous Southwest flight (players’ families are responsible for their own journey).
“It’s a lot of travel,” says Jalynne, “but it’s all worth it. … We know his time goes by so fast with this, so we try to live in the moment and be there as much as possible. Because I know it’s going to be really hard for Brandon, too.
“People understand how difficult it is for me, but I don’t think they understand how difficult it is for a player to be away from his family sometimes. Especially after a tough game, all they want is to see the kids’ smiles and their hugging and kissing woman, forget about it and focus on tomorrow’s game.”
The only job Crawford has ever known is exactly the job he told his teeball coach: playing shortstop for the Giants. He has never spent a game—not even an inning—on another defensive position, something only Aparicio and Smith, two Hall of Famers, can lay claim to with equal longevity.
But Crawford’s memorable tenure was all but cut short this offseason, when only a botched physical kept Carlos Correa from usurping the shortstop job and moving Crawford to second or third base. Last week at Yankee Stadium, Crawford joined the exclusive company of Willie Mays and Barry Bonds to make so many consecutive opening days for the Giants, but this one was the weakest yet.
It only gets more uncertain from now on whether Crawford plans to extend the streak to 13.
“When you go into the final year of a contract, you never know what’s going to happen next,” says Crawford. “In that way, I think this one is a little bit different… I’d like the Giants to be the only team I play for, but we’ll see what happens.”
Those closest to him say he has not yet made up his mind about next season.
“He doesn’t know how he feels, whether he wants to finish or play another season,” says Jalynne. “I know he always dreamed of starting and finishing with the Giants. … We don’t really know and I want it to be Brandon’s decision, not mine, so we support him no matter what direction he feels I know in his heart right now that he really doesn’t know.
Lynn prepares to take a seat along the third base line and understands the context of Friday’s home opener.
“This one is just as special to me as his first,” she says. “I’m just really happy that he gets to play the position he loves.”