Craport Surprises In Minors

VBL Experience Helped Former Turk Chase Dream

By Phil D’Abbraccio
Daily News Record

Staten Island, NY – Before last summer, Georgia Tech assistant coach Jason Howell presented a few options to Trevor Craport for where he could play his summer baseall.

The Valley Baseball League, they decided, was the best one.

“I was willing to give it a try and head a lot of good things from previous Tech players that had gone up there, so I decided to go up there and play,” Craport said Thursday afternoon.

He explained that while wearing an Aberdeen Ironbirds warm up shirt, seated in the first-base dugout of Richmond County Bank Ballpark in Staten Island, N.Y., just a few hours away from the first pitch of another short-season Single-A game.

“It’s something that you don’t believe is possible until you do it. You hear all the numbers,” Craport said, referring to the odds against making the major leagues,” so to get a chance to actually be in the same organization as some of the guys you watch on TV every day is indescribable for me. I have the chance to play there and it’s a dream come true for me.”

He surely believes his time with the Harrisonburg Turks and the VBL, are among the reasons he is where he is.

“There was definitely some good talent there and in the All-Star Game there was a lot of great pitchers and hitters all the way around,” said Craport, who turns 21 years old next Saturday. “It was good exposure event with all the scouts there. I thought it was something that definitely prepared me for my last college season and coming into here.”

Batting second, Craport played his 23rd game with the Ironbirds on Thursday, not even two months removed from the day the Baltimore Orioles selected the third baseman in the 11th round.

With the Ironbirds, where he’s teamed up with former Turner Ashby right-hander Brenan Hanifee, he owned a .267 average, two home runs, 11 RBIs and a .383 on-base percentage entering Thursday.

“He’s a gamer, boy. He gets fired up. It’s good to see,” Ironbirds manager Kevin Bradshaw said. “He’s been a pleasant surprise.”

With the Ironbirds, Craport has primarily played third base, but has pleased the coaching staff with his abilities to catch and handle first base, as well.

Aberdeen hitting coach Tim Raines, Jr. also pointed to the unexpected pop off Craport’s right-handed bat, given his 5-foot-11, 201 point frame.

“He’s hit a couple balls this year that have surprised, I think, everybody in the clubhouse,” Raines said. “He’s not a really big kid, but he does apply a lot of power and he’s got power to all fields, which is impressive for a kid coming out of college. It’ll be fun to see how he develops.”

Raines complimented Craport’s “explosive” hands, which were fast enough to send three foul balls into the third-base dugout in the same at bat.

“I’d never seen that before, so for me that was actually pretty cool,” Raines said with a smile. “I think the thing that he has to understand is he has just as much power to the opposite field as he does pull-side. I think once he understands that and starts learning more about himself, he’s going to be a dangerous hitter and have a chance to have a good future in this game.”

Craport led the 2016 Turks with 28 RBIs and eight stolen bases for the season, adding a third-best .319 average and a fifth-best .388 OBP over his 32 games.

What sticks most with the ex-Turk is the joy of using James Madison’s Veterans Memorial Park with the Turks and the apartment situation the players were afforded.

“Coach Wease was probably the best in the entire league,” Craport said of longtime Turks manager Bob Wease. “Bob and his entire staff did a great job of helping us throughout the year and making we had what we needed to be successful.”

His success at the plate flowed right into Craport’s junior season with the Yellow Jackets. Starting all 55 games he appeared in, the Norcross, Ga., native batted .336 with 20 doubles, five home runs and 36 RBIs and posted an OBP of .399 and a slugging mark of .502.

Then on June 14, day three of the MLB Draft, the Orioles plucked Cra[prt 338th overall — one pick before the Toronto Blue Jays took 2016 Turk Donnie Sellers, a Wake Forest right-hander — and pried him from what would’ve been his senior year at Georgia Tech.

“Just a lot you couldn’t turn down. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass over,” Craport said.

Spending time in the VBL, he said, gave him experience handling a wood bat, which has proved useful in the New York-Penn League with Aberdeen.

But the first memory that came to mind from his 2016 summer in Harrisonburg was more entertaining.

Christopher Farish, a Wake Forest right-hander who pitched for the Turks again this summer, arrived in Harrisonburg after the 2016 season began, coming over from the Cape Cod League.

In a prank inspired by a few other Demon Deacons on the roster, the Turks convinced Farish that teammate and Shenandoah native Ty Comer was deaf.

The joke went on for about two weeks.

“It was pretty funny. A lot went into it. That was probably one of my favorite moments, other than playing,” Craport said. “He showed up late and a couple of guys knew him already so we thought we’d try to see if we could get him.

“Had a lot of fun, and winning baseball games, too, made it even more fun. Had a good group of guys and played well.