James denies touring schools in Philly during All-Star Break
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Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford says club will 'shock a lot of people' in 2018

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce's popularized "We're From Philly, No One Likes Us and We Don't Care" tune has been replayed countless times in the city over the past few weeks, and rightfully so as the city celebrates its first Super Bowl championship of all-time.

The tune and Eagles' championship victory as a whole has transformed the city in more ways than one, such as lifting its fellow basketball and hockey teams into a more comfortable, playoff-bounding standing. Even the Philadelphia Phillies, who are engulfed in their third week of spring training in Clearwater, Florida, are benefiting from this "championship high." The team, under rookie manager Gabe Kapler, is feeling a sense of confidence heading into the 2018 season.

Shortstop J.P. Crawford echoed these feelings with Al Morganti, Rhea Hughes and Marc Farzetta of the WIP Morning Show Thursday morning at Spectrum Field. When asked what his and the team's goal was to accomplish this spring, Crawford quickly replied, "to prove people wrong."

"We're going to prove to the whole nation that the Phillies are ready. The rebuilding process is here, and we're going to shock a lot of people," Crawford said. "We want to win. We hate losing. We've been winning since the minor leagues ... [and] we're going to carry that tradition here."

"Everyone here is going to fight every day to win."

As Crawford continues to prepare for his first full season in the major leagues.

The 23-year-old batted .214/.356/.300 in 23 games following his Sept. 5 promotion last season. Spanning 87 plate appearances, Crawford scored eight runs on top of 10 singles, four doubles, one triple, six RBIs, 16 walks and a stolen base. In the field, Crawford committed no errors spanning 84 chances across three positions: third base (43 chances), shortstop (28 chances), second base (13 chances).

Crawford received more playing time at third (101 innings), than his natural position at shortstpo (55 innings) due to then-everyday shortstop Freddy Galvis still being on the team. With Galvis now dealt to the San Diego Padres, Crawford will now take over the starting role at the position.

Still, Crawford embrace's Kapler's desire for the team to be versatile. Crawford said he did not mind playing different positions last season, and would continue to do so in 2018 as long as he receives regular playing time.

"I liked it a lot ... just playing new positions, trying out whatever gets me on the field and whatever helps me stay on the field," Crawford said. "They can put me in [as] catcher, I don't care where I play, as long as I'm on the field."

Getting to where he is now was no easy task for Crawford, despite his less than five-year rise to the major leagues within the Phillies organization, after first appearing at the rookie level in 2013.

Crawford experienced struggles in the minors, such as with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs in 2016 when he hit just .244/.328/.318 in 87 games. Many writers, fans and alike began to support the narrative that the former 16th overall selection in the 2013 amateur draft was not living up to the "top prospect" title given to him earlier on in his professional career.

Crawford said while the critiques were "definitely hard" to deal with, he used them as "motivation" to turn his play around.

"You don't like to see all that negative stuff on the Internet, but you're going to look at it. It's all over the place," Crawford said. "I use it as motivation. It kind of lit a fire under me, and [I] turned it around."

"It was definitely hard. I never struggled like that before, but thankfully I had great teammates to pick me up every day to get my mind off of it. At the end of the game, just go home and clear my mind and go back to work tomorrow. I just kept putting in the work. I knew the results were going to come sooner than later.

I was just missing the good pitches. When I was going bad, I was just fouling the good pitches off. I was still getting good counts, but [was] just missing my pitches. I started seeing the ball better, calmed down in the box and just squared the ball up."

Crawford looks to use spring training as an opportunity to both get better and help the team win. The Long Beach, California native said he is primary focusing on getting stronger, staying healthy  and "being consistent on the field and in the box."

"You just go out there [and] be yourself," Crawford said. "Just go out there every day, trying to get better no matter what it is, defense or offense. Go out there with a plan, try to get better and help your team win."

A big part of team success throughout the rigorous, 162-game schedule is efforts spent early on in spring training toward building team chemistry and morale. Crawford said that this year's clubhouse "is totally different" in years past, that the vibe is "great," and that the players are "laughing, joking, and having a good time."

"It's the best clubhouse I've ever been a part of right now," Crawford said. "We're working hard. I just can't wait for the season and see what's happening for us."

Crawford said that Kapler and his "big bold" mantra gets him "fired up" every time he comes into the locker room.

"'Be Bold,' to me, means to go out there, be yourself and don't let anybody say anything about you," Crawford said.

"Just go out there, be yourself and compete."

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