Last season, outfielder Bobby Crocker worked his way to a .323 batting average as a freshman. As a sophomore, with his .319 average, Crocker looks to continue that success.
His love for the game has helped.
“I just feel the one-on-one competitiveness of pitcher versus hitter is really appealing to me,” Crocker said. “I love the competition.”
In his first season, the construction management sophomore started in 33 games and hit five home runs. He was also 10-for-12 in stolen bases and drove in 24 runs.
“There is no better way to come in than having a year like last year,” Crocker said. “The team was awesome and we meshed really well and we won a lot of games. We were a clutch team all around.”
Success aside, he said when he first came to Cal Poly, he realized he was no better than anyone else — all the players were standouts. By watching other players hit or pitch, Crocker said he was able to learn the keys to becoming a better player. Batting and learning “pre-pitch situations” or how to strategize in-game, were some of the main things he focused on to get better last year.
The lessons he learned didn’t just come from his teammates.
Crocker said practicing with head coach Larry Lee has really made him change his perspective on the game and work harder during practices.
Lee described Crocker as one of the hardest workers on the team. He said Crocker has the strength and speed to go pro, but it will continue to be a process of fine-tuning his skills. He said the first thing out of high school he needed to change was his hitting mechanics — something that took him five months to turn around.
“Now he is able to elevate the ball easier and utilize his power,” Lee said. “He has a passion for the game. He brings a little bit of everything to the game, and the sky is the limit for someone like Bobby. Now it is just honing those skills to fitting into the game.”
Crocker, who first began playing baseball as a kid, said that not until last year did he begin to understand the sacrifices someone has to make when playing the game. Baseball is not about singular success and batting average. For example, a sacrifice bunt to move a teammate to third is just one of the things he is learning that a player must to do help the team win, he said.
“It’s definitely a mental game and a game of failure. Places like (Cal Poly) have developed me into a hard-nosed player,” Crocker said. “So there is a lot of room for failure as well as for success.”
He admits it is the competitive and mental aspect of baseball that got him hooked. In his hometown, Aromas, located near Santa Cruz, his parents enrolled him in tee-ball. Since then it has been his dream to go pro. Or be a race car driver, Crocker said, laughing.
“My parents just threw me into a sport and supported me, just like they have supported a lot of other things. I think baseball was something that just hung onto me a little bit more and I wanted to make it a lifestyle,” Crocker said.
Even now, his parents and grandparents come to every game to cheer him on.
Aside from family, Crocker said he has always wanted to surround himself with better players who would challenge his skill, and — at least on paper — it paid off. During his senior year at Aptos High School, he hit .387 while also pitching a 3.88 ERA.
“All the way up to high school, I would just try to hit the ball the hardest I could. Now when there is a runner on third, you have to sacrifice yourself,” Crocker said.
Crocker doesn’t just learn from his teammates, he said helping them is one of his priorities on and off the field. Being a part of a good group guys has made his experience at Cal Poly something he will never forget, he said.
Pitcher Steven Fischback has been on the team for three years and said Crocker has come a long way since they first played together. Fischback said Crocker has really elevated his play and has become one of the better players on the team.
“He is ready … to have a big year next year, but with a little bit more coaching and mental work he will be ready for the next level,” Fischback said.
He said while this season has been tough, Crocker has become more of a leader to keep his teammates’ spirits high.
“He is a vocal leader. He will say things to keep the attitude up and positive, and that’s definitely something we needed this year,” Fischback said.
Crocker said that this year the team has all the talent, but that they have just underachieved. He said losing has taught him a lot and he knows what the team has to do to be better next year.
“I definitely never want to play on a team that’s under .500 again. Winning brings a different atmosphere, and it’s contagious amongst the team. This year things haven’t gone our way and I really believe we’ll finish strong,” Crocker said.
With 12 games left in the season, he and the Mustangs will still have a chance to piece together a sprint to the finish line.
Cal Poly will face off against Loyola Marymont today at 3 p.m.