York Revolution players eager to get back to playing baseball after forced hiatus in 2020

ROB ROSE
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Since he was a kid, Rashad Crawford has spent much of his time on a baseball field.

The 27-year-old outfielder was drafted by the Chicago Cubs out of high school, so baseball has long been a part of his everyday life.

That was until the COVID-19 pandemic hit last spring.

York Revolution's Rashad Crawford during baseball practice at PeoplesBank Park in York City, Thursday, May 20, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Crawford had elected free agency after he spent four seasons in the New York Yankees minor-league system following a 2016 trade, so he was without a team in 2020 even before the minor-league season was canceled.

Now, as a member of the 2021 York Revolution, the sensations that Crawford spent so many years enjoying have started to creep back in, with the Revs preparing to begin their campaign on Friday evening.

“It’s a feeling that you remember and all the feelings and memories of playing ball are coming back,” Crawford said. “I’m just excited for the season to get underway.”

Crawford isn’t the only former Cub on the Revs’ roster. Josh Vitters was selected No. 3 overall by Chicago in 2007 out of high school and is also ready to resume a normal year filled with baseball.

The 31-year-old was signed to play for York last year before the Atlantic League season became a casualty of COVID-19. Vitters usually prepares for an upcoming season by practicing at his high school in California, but with the many restrictions, he was limited to training with his father to stay sharp.

“It feels great being under the sun and on the field,” Vitters said last week during a Revs workout. “I feel a little rusty, but that’s what I expected and I’m feeling better every day at this point.”

York Revolution's Josh Vitters during baseball practice at PeoplesBank Park in York City, Thursday, May 20, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Getting back to big-league organizations a real possibility: Vitters is one of a few Revs with MLB experience. Manager Mark Mason believes many of those players have a chance to get back to big-league organizations in 2021. With the contraction of the minor-league system and a limit to the MLB draft, Mason said there are a lot of players ready to join a MLB organization right now in the Atlantic League.

"This could be a really big year for our league as far as player signings go because we're more veteran-oriented right now with our league than affiliated ball is,” Mason said.

Proof of that is the 27 players already signed by MLB teams from the league before a pitch was thrown. That list includes Delone Catholic High School graduate Casey Lawrence, who was set to play for York before the Toronto Blue Jays purchased his contract and signed him to a minor-league deal last week. Additionally, infielder Orlando Calixte has joined the New York Mets after originally signing with the Revs for the 2021 season.

Ready to play in front of fans: Along with having games on the schedule, Mason and the players were also excited about the prospect of playing in front of fans again.

York Revolution Manager Mark Mason during batting practice at PeoplesBank Park in York City, Thursday, May 20, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The Revs, who last played a game approximately 20 months ago in September of 2019, announced that the crowd limitations will be eased as the 2021 campaign begins with Friday evening's opener at PeoplesBank Park vs. High Point. The Revs' plan is to operate at 100% capacity by the Fourth of July weekend. York also will not require fully vaccinated fans to wear face coverings or socially distance during its home games, in line with the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.

While the lost 2020 season was a disappointment for all involved, Mason has asked his players to take advantage of the opportunity they have now and enjoy the chance to again play the sport they grew up with.

“I just told the guys, ‘Just breathe and take it all in. I mean, imagine where we were last year at this time and where we're at now,’” Mason said. “It will be nice to have fans here, especially as the restrictions are getting lifted, but it's nice to hear the crack of the bat and the pop of the mitt, and it's just nice to be around the guys and listen to all the agitating that goes on as well.”

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.