PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Carl Crawford is the best player in Rays history.

For years the team's star left fielder labored in obscurity for the lowly Devil Rays. While the franchise struggled, Crawford tirelessly carved out a name for himself. And while ESPN never seemed to show his daily highlights, his peers recognized what a unique talent the Houston native brought to the game.

"Carl is definitely one of the most underrated players in the game," Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said. "That's probably because of the market he's in, where he's played. This guy has five tools. He's a tremendous athlete. He can beat you in so many ways -- with power, average, steals, his glove, his arm.

"He's the whole package. He's probably in the top 10, maybe top five players in the game, as far as I'm concerned. There are players, and there are hitters. Carl's a player. He's one of the best. I love him."

Based on the fact Crawford has won four American League stolen base titles, has hit over .300 four times in his career, and was the MVP of last year's All-Star Game, it's remarkable he has remained under the radar as long as he has.

Crawford is a tireless worker, who is usually the first player to arrive in the clubhouse and the last to leave. Throughout his career, he has been a favorite with the media due to his candid manner and sense of humor. He recently agreed to sit down and talk with MLB.com.

MLB.com: Everybody talks about how hard you work. Who taught you your work ethic?

Crawford: I don't really know if it's something I was taught. It's just something you figure [out] you have one day when you start working out, seeing what your body can take, and you know what you need to do to play at a certain level. My family always had a strong work ethic, from going to work with my dad when I was younger. Same approach he took to his job is the way I am with baseball. He was always the first person there and the last person to leave. I just kind of took that everyday approach and applied it to baseball.

MLB.com: Have there been times when it wasn't well received by your teammates?

Crawford: I don't know. If it is, I don't care. I couldn't care less if a person doesn't like me being here early and leaving late. That's nothing anybody should get upset about, when a guy is trying to better himself. I'm not trying to show guys up, I just feel like that's what's going to make me a better ballplayer.

MLB.com: Do you feel as though you've been able to see tangible rewards from all the hard work you put in?

Crawford: My career's been good because of the way I work. I think if I had done it different, things would probably be different in my career.

MLB.com: Is it true you're always looking at different routines while trying to get better, and looking for better ways to get it done?

Crawford: You've got to alternate your routine sometimes. I'm not always going to be here early. Sometimes I get tired and I have to switch it up. Come later on. Depends on how my body feels. Now, when I was younger, I used to do it every day. Now, I have to listen to my body at times and do it that way.

MLB.com: How has success changed you if at all?

Crawford: I don't think I've changed at all. I think I'm exactly the same. It's a little bit different. People know you a little bit more. You've got to adjust a few little things, but nothing major. They say you've changed. But I don't think I've changed at all, I think they have changed more in the way they treat me.

MLB.com: You had experienced so much losing going into 2008. What did you learn from always being on a loser and finally being on a winner?

Crawford: I just learned to keep doing what you do. I learned that things aren't always going to be perfect, but you have to find the good in every bad situation, even if it is worse. I just don't think there are too many players who went through what I did my first four years in the league. I had to find the positives out of every bad situation I was in.

MLB.com: How much better is moving past the individual stuff to concentrate on team and winning?

Crawford: Depends on how you come up. You come up through an organization like the Yankees where the tradition is winning all the time, you don't even think about yourself. It's always team, team, team. Early on, when you're losing, you have to focus on yourself a little more. As things start to focus more or winning, it's easier not to worry about yourself because if you just think team, everything will take care of itself.

MLB.com: Is it an unfair criticism of a player when they talk about him being concerned about his individual results? You have to think about yourself, don't you? It's your job.

Crawford: In baseball, you have to think, I have to do this, when you think for yourself a little bit, it benefits the team. So there's no way you can say, "I'm doing this for the team" unless you're bunting to get a guy over. If you're not trying to move the runner over or something like that, you have to be thinking, "I have to get a hit."

MLB.com: Is it harder for a player to get to the Major Leagues or harder staying there?

Crawford: It's harder to stay. Way harder to stay. Getting to the big leagues, I think, is easy. Staying is definitely the hardest part.

MLB.com: Of course getting to the big leagues is a lot harder with the Rays these days, isn't it?

Crawford: It's not as easy as it used to be. Still, you get here and you realize you haven't seen anything like this in the Minor Leagues, so it's definitely harder to stay.

MLB.com: Are you content where you are now?

Crawford: I'm not ever going to get content. That's just my nature, the way I was brought up, you know. I'm always trying to find a way to get better even when people say that's it.

MLB.com: What would you say you need to get better at?

Crawford: Everything! I don't think I'm perfect at anything. Until that day comes, which will never come in baseball, I'll always try and get better. My whole game can get better.

MLB.com: Where your contract is concerned, you've decided not to talk about it anymore this season. Why?

Crawford: I just want to keep that under wraps until the end of the season. I don't want that to be a distraction. We've got a good team here. That should be the focus of the season. Not contract talks. We really have a chance to do something special this year. That stuff will take care of itself, it always does.