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AL notes: Crawford returns home
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07/12/2004  8:24 PM ET
AL notes: Crawford returns home
Tampa Bay outfielder runs into old friend
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Carl Crawford's youth coach said he knew when Crawford was 15 that the current Devil Rays outfielder would be a star. (Ben Platt/MLB.com)
HOUSTON -- Tampa Bay outfielder Carl Crawford of Houston spent the first part of his time Monday reminiscing about the good old days in the Bayou City with old friend Layne Wyatt instead of watching his new friends hit home runs.

Wyatt, 24, a grounds keeper for the Astros, played select baseball with Crawford as a teenager for the Pasadena Stars. Wyatt's father Jeff coached the team.

"My dad coached a lot of good college guys and he's been around a long time, but I'm pretty sure he's never had an All-Star before," Wyatt said. "Carl was only 15, but I knew he would be a great one. I remember when he would hit the ball to second base and beat the throw to first. We were like, 'No he didn't."

Crawford's time with the Stars marked his first taste in highly competitive select baseball. It also marked the first time he played with a team outside of his neighborhood.

"That's the first I was ever around that many people that were not black," said Crawford, who went to Jefferson Davis High School. "I'm not kidding. It was different than what I was used to, but it was a great experience. It was a culture shock at first."

Special assignment, Baseball: U.S. Army specialist Phil Kiver from Spokane, Wash., a broadcast journalist for the Army, arguably is cherishing his time in town for the All-Star Game festivities more than anybody.

2004 All-Star Game

Kiver, 27, is stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, and is scheduled to depart for Baghdad on Sunday. He does not know when he is going to return.

"My friends ask me when it's going to get real for me because I have been here filming sports for the last year and my answer is when I get live ammo and I'm in Iraq," he said. "That's in a few days."

Part of Kiver's duties in Iraq will include filming and documenting the Army's effort for broadcast on the Army's network. He can also be called into combat.

"I love baseball, but this is fantasy, man," Kiver said. "Baseball is great and I'm glad I could come out here and be here for the final days before I go. But what I film over there is going to be history."

Mattingly the spectator: Don't look for New York Yankees hitting coach Don Mattingly to offer a lot of hitting instruction during the next few days.

With a cast of All-Stars, he doesn't have to.

"No coaching goes into this," Mattingly said. "You help the group get set up in batting practice and make sure the time gets organized then you sit back and watch. I enjoy this a lot."

Mattingly was a six-time All-Star selection for the Yankees in the 1980s.

"This takes me back," he said. "I remember all the people and all hoopla. It's pretty cool to be here again."

Father-son moments: It was hard to tell who was enjoying the home run derby and the batting practice before the contest more -- Tom Gordon or his three sons.

The Gordons: Daveris, 16, Thomas, 15, and Nicholas, 9, were each dressed in a Yankees uniform in the American League dugout and watched in awe as the All-Stars took the field. The elder Gordon paused for a few moments before describing the feelings that come with having his sons share the All-Star moments.

"Having the opportunity to be in something so special as this and having your boys with you is special," Gordon said. "They've been up since 7:30 or 8 o'clock this morning ready to go. It's a blessing to be here, man. A blessing."

Blue Jays manager Carlos Tosca, who brought his son 14-year old son Matt, echoed Gordon's sentiments.

"This is surreal for us," Tosca said. "You have expectations and you have certain ideas of the things that will happen here, but this far exceeds my expectations. To be around these guys and all this talent is unbelievable."

Other sons in the American League dugout during batting practice were Patrick and Preston Palmeiro, the son of Baltimore's Rafael Palmeiro, and Trevor Rogers, the 7-year-old son of Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers.

He said it: "There was a lot of apprehension of what kind of player he was going to be or if he was going to be a Major League player at all. There were a lot of people who believed in him and he believed a lot in himself. You have to give him a lot of credit." -- Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez on former teammate and Rangers current shortstop Michael Young

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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