10/21/08 6:57 PM ET
Crawford lends advice to students
Proud alumnus of RBI program speaks at school on Tuesday
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
The outfielder looked right at home joining kids from the John Hopkins Middle School in St. Petersburg for a pep rally in support of the Rays' quest for a World Series title.
Approximately 600 students packed into the school's gymnasium, some with signs and all with World Series towels (donated by Major League Baseball) to show Crawford their support.
The rally brought Crawford back to his childhood days, as the two-time AL All-Star encouraged the youngsters to work hard and follow their dreams. It is precisely what the Houston native did to find himself on baseball's biggest stage.
Crawford is an alumnus of the RBI program, which stands for Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities, and encouraged the children to use the program to their advantage.
"The RBI organization gave me the exposure I needed to find the right people," Crawford said. "And I took advantage of it."
Crawford is one of eight RBI alumni who played this October, joining Coco Crisp and Manny Delcarmen (Boston Red Sox); James Loney and James McDonald (Los Angeles Dodgers); CC Sabathia and Yovani Gallardo (Milwaukee Brewers) and Jimmy Rollins (Philadelphia Phillies).
RBI, presented by KPMG, was started in 1989 to provide under served youth with an opportunity to play baseball and softball and learn valuable life lessons that will help them score on and off the field.
Proudly standing at the podium beside school principal Maureen Dorten, Crawford spoke of the long-beleaguered Rays and how hard work has helped the Tampa Bay franchise land its first trip to the World Series.
And, thanks to the RBI program, three cities will also take part in the festivities.
Before Thursday night's Game 2, the program's winners -- Los Angeles senior boys, Santo Domingo senior girls and Detroit junior boys -- will do a meet-and-greet with Crawford and Rollins during pregame batting practice at Tropicana Field.
RBI programs have been started in more than 200 cities worldwide, and annually have provided as many as 120,000 boys and girls the opportunity to play baseball and softball.
And while Crawford took time to help give away a Rays World Series jersey and talk a little baseball, the anointed Principal for the Day made sure to get in another message to his young students.
"Listen to your parents, do your homework and listen to your teachers," he said. "Those are the real heroes."
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.