Baseball: From the Big Leagues to the Birds

Coco Crisp has been added to the baseball coaching staff
Coco Crisp has been added to the baseball coaching staff

For 15 years (2002-16), Coco Crisp was one of baseball's best defensive outfielders and basestealers. He played for four teams, won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2007 and led the American League in stolen bases in 2011 with 49 while with the Oakland A's. Upon his retirement after the 2016 season, Crisp has shown an interest in coaching and will serve as the bench coach for the Cerritos College baseball team in 2020 alongside his longtime friend Vic Buttler, who is entering his first season as the Falcons interim head coach.

"I enjoy teaching the game... teaching period" said Crisp, who played his last game for the Cleveland Indians after the 2016 World Series. "I love helping someone become the best they can be. I started coaching Little League after I retired for my older boy's team, Caden. We ended up winning the championship, which was pretty cool. From there I signed up to be the head coach for Shadow Hills High School in Indio for a couple years, which I enjoyed. I would've stayed longer but my family and I moved from Palm Springs back to the LA area."

Assistant Coach Coco Crisp Known for his speed in the outfield, as well as on the basepaths, Crisp will spend his time during practice working with the players on both of those skills, as well as their overall approach to the game. And he thinks those two aspects of the game are coachable, as long as you're willing to put in the work.

"You can always get better at anything," added Crisp. "Now, how good you're going to be is predicated on how much work you put in and really what you're ceiling is. You can always be taught the fundamentals of any aspect of baseball, but there's still an instinctive part of the game that either you have or you don't. It's kind of that mental killer instinct and that's something you just have."

Crisp is familiar with the community college level, as he got his start at Los Angeles Pierce College before getting drafted in the 7th Round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999. He made his minor league debut with Johnson City at the Rookie level and played second base. By 2001, Crisp was named the Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year and led the Carolina League in multiple offensive categories. Part of the trade that sent Chuck Finley from the Cleveland Indians to the Cardinals prior to the start of the 2002 season, Crisp made his major league debut in August, 2002 for the Indians and went 3-for-5 in his major league debut as a starter against the (then) Anaheim Angels.

But while he was in the minors, he played against Buttler several times, who he had been friends with since they were 10 years old. Crisp attended Inglewood High, while Buttler was playing for rival Westchester High. The two remained close, and when Buttler was offered the Falcon job, he reached out to his longtime friend to see if he'd be interested in serving as his bench coach.

"Coco and I met in Little League when we were 10 years old," said Buttler, who played in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system. "We played on several teams together growing up and against each other in professional ball. Coco decided to start coaching after retirement. We coached against each other on the high school level and often talked about coaching together at the collegiate level."

During games this season, Crisp and Buttler will sit alongside each other as they both dissect each game and will do the same during practices while the players work on their skills.

"Coco is very detailed oriented," added Buttler. "He's a professor of the game. His ability to see things that most coaches don't and teach those small details will be of great importance to the success of the program. He's a huge asset to our coaching staff."

During his time playing at LA Pierce, Crisp didn't get an opportunity to play on the famous Kincaid Field, named after the college's first coach and multiple Hall of Fame inductee, Wally Kincaid. The teams met up twice that season, but Crisp did not play. But in the time he's spent on the Falcon staff, he's had a chance to learn more by speaking to alumni and doing a little research on his own.

Coco Crisp stole 309 bases while in the major leagues "Unfortunately, I never got the opportunity to play at Kincaid Field, nor was I aware of the success Wally Kincaid had as a coach," continued Crisp. "Obviously, now that I'm part of the program, I've learned a lot about the past of Cerritos baseball and doing things "The Bird Way"."

Known at times for being a flamboyant player, Crisp used that to his advantage. His enthusiasm for the game made him a fan favorite among the home fans, while visiting fans enjoyed showing their displeasure for his outgoing personality. In spite of all that, he was a player teams looked to add to their lineup, which resulted in Crisp making the playoffs in six of his seasons. His first go-around in the postseason resulted in winning a World Series with the Red Sox in 2007, while he went 1-for-2 at the plate against the Colorado Rockies. Crisp made the postseason twice with Boston, three times in Oakland, and closed out his career playing in the World Series with the Indians against the Chicago Cubs in 2016, where he batted .333 with a pair of doubles. In the AL Division Series, Crisp hit a two-run home run against the Red Sox, which turned out to be the game-winner and advance the Indians to the AL Championship Series.

A free agent after the season, Crisp elected to retire and then moved directly into coaching. Additionally, Crisp served as a color commentator on 33 Oakland A's radio broadcasts in 2019 and is expected to return next season in the same role.

His focus starting on January 24, as the Falcons open their season hosting Fullerton College, will be to work on improving the skills of college-level athletes.

"I enjoyed every aspect of my playing career," said Crisp. "I was blessed to have had a long career and be able to retire on my own accord. But honestly I don't miss being in the big leagues. I chose to retire after 15 years to watch and help my kids grow up and succeed in whatever they want to do. Even though I still had more in the tank, it was just family time. You know what, the thing that I miss the most is having my family down on the field with me during fireworks nights, team family field days, practicing baseball on the field with them. Seeing them up in the stands, stuff like that. But now, I'm going to try and help the Falcons be the best they can be and help these young men move toward the next level. Experience is the best teacher and I have a lot of that to try and be as helpful as possible."