ATLANTA -- The path Callix Crabbe has taken to the Major Leagues has had plenty of twists and turns, through different cities, different states and different organizations. But there was always one constant on the road to reaching his dream, a visible reminder of where Crabbe wanted to wind up playing -- Turner Field, in his hometown of Atlanta. "There were plenty of times when I would leave from my home in Georgia each year to go to Spring Training and I would drive by Turner Field," Crabbe said. "I would tell my friends or my girlfriend that I was going to play there someday."
Someday is Tuesday, when the Padres open a three-game series against the Braves at the ballpark Crabbe -- a native of the Virgin Islands but a Georgia resident since he was 15 -- vowed he would play at some point in his career. Now it's going to happen. Crabbe, who has played second base, shortstop and the outfield, is hitting .207. He got the start at shortstop Sunday against the Marlins and reached base three times. The Padres like his versatility and his speed. He might not start during the series in Atlanta; heck, he might not even play. To be sure, though, he's made it. All it took was three different organizations to get there, as he landed with the Padres in December's Rule 5 Draft. But then, that was the whole point of moving from the Virgin Islands to pursue his dream of playing in the Major Leagues. "I moved to live with my sister in Stone Mountain [outside Atlanta] when I was 15 to go to school and play baseball," Crabbe said. "For me, leaving home was pretty easy, but for my family, it was harder. I was ready to go. I knew I had to go because I knew that I had the ability to play baseball." Not that assimilating himself to the American culture always went smoothly. Luckily for Crabbe, there was one common bond he shared with many of his peers: playing baseball. "There were tough times because at home everyone knew who I was. But when I moved to Georgia, I didn't know anyone. And it was difficult meeting new people ... being in a new environment. But once I started playing baseball in the East Cobb program, it was a lot easier to relate." The storied East Cobb program has produced a handful of Major League players such as Padres catcher Michael Barrett, Arizona shortstop Stephen Drew, Arizona pitcher Micah Owings and Atlanta catcher Brian McCann.
As teenagers, Crabbe, McCann and Owings actually played on the same East Cobb team that went on to win the CABA World Series in Texas. In fact, when Crabbe first joined the East Cobb program, it pushed McCann from second base to catcher.
"He's the reason I moved from second base to catcher," said McCann, an All-Star in 2006 and 2007. "When a guy like that comes around, it's not too hard to realize it's time to change positions."
Don't think Crabbe, if he gets a plate appearance this week, won't chide McCann about how he helped launch his catching career.
"When I get up to the plate, if I get up to the plate [in Atlanta], I'm going to remind him of that and tell him he owes me money," Crabbe said, smiling.
It wasn't entirely uncommon for Crabbe to spend nights at either McCann's house or at the Owings' ranch instead of with his sister in Stone Mountain.
So much so that Crabbe's sister often wondered where he was.
"I used to sleep at Brian's house for a week and Micah's house for a week. There were times when my sister didn't know where I was, so she bought me a pager," Crabbe said.
Owings remembers when Crabbe spent part of one summer with his family and Crabbe's reaction to being around horses for the first time, something he didn't get too much of in the Virgin Islands.
"There are some great stories, and he probably can tell them better than me ... staying up late, eating pizza, hanging out," Owings said. "We lived on a farm back then and we had some horses and stuff he had never experienced. I love the kid."
Owings remembers a player who was never short on confidence, even when the 25-year-old Crabbe was in the Brewers farm system with, seemingly, little hope of cracking Milwaukee's 25-man roster.
Owings remembers a specific conversation he had with Crabbe at a Christian outreach breakfast when both were still in the Minor Leagues.
"When he was in Double-A -- and you know when you're in Double-A, you never know what's going to happen -- but he told everybody at the breakfast, 'I'm going to make it. I'm not sure [how], but I'm going to make it.'"
And here he is.
|"There were plenty of times when I would leave from my home in Georgia each year to go to Spring Training and I would drive by Turner Field. I would tell my friends or my girlfriend that I was going to play there someday."|
|-- Callix Crabbe|
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.