Narciso Crook brought joy to everything he touched Tuesday night at Fifth Third Field. Every Dayton Dragons fan cheered his go-ahead, three-run double in the seventh inning of another come-from-behind victory.
But the handful of little boys who brought their green Dragons hats, ballgloves and baseballs to the corner of the dugout after the game and asked for autographs felt more joy than anyone. Crook signed everything they had, and the boys smiled and thanked him. Crook did it with the big smile he always wears to the ballpark.
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“I just feel like if I was that age, seeing a professional athlete come up to me, saying, ‘What’s up’ and having a normal conversation, it just goes a long way,” Crook said. “So I try to do that for them whenever I can.”
Crook was back in the lineup Tuesday after getting a day off. He had an RBI double in the fourth inning and the big double that turned out to be the game-winner in an 8-6 victory over Cedar Rapids.
“It felt good to be back and it felt good to produce for the team and come from behind and win,” Crook said.
The big hits weren’t the only reason the kids came looking for Crook, who is usually one of the last players to leave the dugout.
This is the third season he has played in Dayton because of injuries that shortened his previous two seasons. And he has developed a relationship with the young fans who sit near the Dragons’ dugout.
“They yell at me after the game, before the game,” Crook said. “During the game I usually give them a little high five from far away. They love it. I just like having fun with them.”
The kids call him Little Crook. He figures it’s because they think he’s a little kid like them. He does play the game with a kid’s enthusiasm.
“It’s cool when I recognize them, and they know that I recognize them,” he said. “They love that.”
All Dragons fans have grown to love their team’s ability to come from behind. The third-place Dragons are 17-12 and have come from behind to win 13 times. Tuesday’s win was their second win in eight days after trailing by six runs. The Dragons had done that only once in the previous four seasons.
“I love the fact that none of us give up,” Crook said. “It’s never a safe lead for the other team.”
Crook’s first double started the comeback from a 6-0 deficit. Then John Sansone stoked the Dragons’ fire with a three-run homer.
“It’s good to see those guys have confidence in themselves that no matter what they’re going to come back,” Dragons manager Luis Bolivar said.
When Crook was finished being interviewed in the dugout, he noticed a little girl standing where the boys had been a few minutes before. He walked over to her. She was shy, so her mother asked if her daughter could have a baseball.
“Yeah, I’ll find you one,” Crook said. He looked all over the dugout but didn’t find one.
“Wait there and I’ll go get you one,” he said. The little girl nodded as if to say, “OK, I’ll wait.”
Crook jogged down to the tunnel toward the clubhouse. He returned a minute later with two baseballs for his young fan.
“He’s good at interacting with the fans and all the kids,” Bolivar said. “He’s a people person.”
Dragons tales: Coming into Tuesday’s game the Dragons had completed 20 percent of the season with a 16-12 record. That was tied for second best in the Dragons’ last 10 seasons. They also started 16-12 in 2014. Last year’s start through 28 games was 18-10.
- Outfielder Michael Beltre, who is batting .353 and leads the league in on-base percentage at .476, had an 11-game hitting streak broken Monday night. He was not in the lineup Tuesday.
- Outfielder Andy Sugilio has been on the disabled list since April 6 after playing in only two games. He is now playing in extended spring training.