There are two coincidences attached to Ben Crockett’s appointment as Boston’s Director of Player Development:
- Crockett was selected in the 10th round of the 2001 draft by the Red Sox but wound up enrolling at Harvard.
- A native of Topsfield, Mass. and a star pitcher for Masconomet High, Crockett graduated in 2002 with a degree in economics.
Even though Crockett described being drafted by Boston as “a bit of a dream,” negotiations were “difficult” and he decided to return to Harvard for his senior year.
Crockett, a right-hander, set Harvard records for most strikeouts in a game (17), a season (117) and a career (263). And he played a major role in the Crimson winning a second Ivy League championship during his career.
In the summer following his sophomore year, he pitched for Wareham in the prestigious Cape Cod League and earned both All-Star and Pitcher of the Year honors. In a sense it was more of the same because at Masconomet, he led the Chieftains to a trio of Cape Ann League championships and was voted the 1998 All-Scholastic Player of the Year by both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald.
Crockett also had an opportunity to put his knowledge of economics to good use because he worked in economic development in the Wareham Town Hall.
Then, when the Rockies picked Crockett in the third round of the 2002 draft, he signed on the dotted line. But after four seasons in Colorado’s farm system, where he compiled a 26-38 record with a 4.10 ERA, he was released prior to the 2006 season.
“I was released in spring training and played independent ball for a season in Somerset, New Jersey,” said Crockett, who was 8-11 with a 3.51 ERA for the Patriots. “It was really tough (i.e. his release by Colorado). Anytime somebody tells you your dream is not going to become a reality is disappointing. It definitely was a challenge that I had to work through mentally.
“Getting back on the field (with Somerset) was helpful. At least I got to play and have some success. It was a challenge but it happens to everyone. A lot of people have to go through it and it’s taken away from everybody at some point or another. It was just my time. I had to come to grips with it and figure out what I was going to do.”
In retrospect, Crockett already had set the wheels in motion regarding life after playing baseball.
“I had a good season and still was debating about playing versus trying to pursue the front office path,” he said. “I ended up deciding to pursue the front office side of things.
“I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time to get an internship with the Red Sox, my home town team.”
That begs the question why would a Harvard grad with a degree in economics pursue a career in baseball instead of on Wall Street?
“For me, I always was passionate about baseball,” said Crockett. “I got a chance to play in the minor leagues for five years. I think I identified even in college my being involved in the baseball management side was something I wanted to do down the road.
“Maybe it came a little bit sooner than I had hoped based on my playing career. But it still was a good destination.”
After serving his internship in baseball operations, he eventually was named Boston’s advance scouting coordinator – a position he held from 2008-09. And commencing in January of 2010, he served as Boston’s assistant director of player development.
“Certainly, from the advance scouting side of things, it helped my ability to evaluate players,” said Crockett. “Coming in after being a player, you certainly try to look at things from a scouting perspective in terms of trying to break down guys.
“Doing that was an eye-opening experience and a great learning experience for me, as well as a challenge in a lot of ways. You’re looking for any opportunity to exploit. You’re trying to identify strengths and weaknesses of opponents. You’re trying to provide information in terms of how to attack hitters or pitchers. But more than anything, it’s about trying to provide as much information as possible to the major league staff and players for them to use as they see fit within the context of a game.”
Morphing into player development proved to be a plus for Crockett who was mentored by the man who would become his predecessor, Mike Hazen (who was promoted to vice president/assistant general manager).
“Working for Mike Hazen the last several years … he was an incredible mentor for me in terms of showing me the way to run a successful farm system,” said Crockett.
In what ways, for example?
“His persona … the way he deals with people and the way he collects information and uses his resources,” said Crockett. “He communicates well with everybody on his staff. He did a very good job of balancing everybody’s needs as well as making a decision in a lot of tough spots. All of those things were things I tried to learn from him and take on as part of my stuff.”
At the risk of stating the obvious, Crockett has a pair of big shoes to fill given the success Hazen had in developing players who’ve gone on to play for Boston – or may do so in the future.
“Right now, I think with our farm system we’re in a really good place,” said Crockett. “We’ve drafted and signed internationally pretty well. I think we have a crop of young players that should be ready to make an impact at some point as well as the group we’ve had at Portland and Pawtucket over the last couple of years.
“By that I mean young players that are, hopefully, ready to contribute at some point soon.”
Some players who might have contributed were traded during the offseason, which presents another challenge for Crockett.
“We lost some solid players that we liked and traded,” he said. “But that’s the kind of cost (you pay) of acquiring young, controllable major league talent. At the end of the day, everybody’s end game is to win at the major league level.
“It’s always a balance between now and the future.”
A balance that often can be described as delicate.