Richard Stephen "Bubba" Crosby
Bubba Crosby is a Major League Baseball player, an outfielder known for his sparkling defense, speed, and hustle.
Bubba was born to Tami and Steve Crosby on August 11, 1976, in Bellaire, Texas (a suburb of Houston, known for its Little League and high school baseball programs). He was given his nickname by his sister, Charmin, then 15 months old; she couldn't say "brother." He also has two younger brothers, Tommy and David. (Oakland A's shortstop Bobby Crosby is no relation. Bobby was widely reported to be Bubba's brother when they first came up, and to this day many journalists confuse them, but they are not related.)
Bubba was a star on Bellaire High School baseball team. Coached by Chuck Knoblauch's father, Ray, he pitched his team to a state championship in 1994.
At Rice University, Bubba switched from pitching to the outfield. He put up great stats there; several of his batting records still stand today. Many thought it was Bubba, not his teammate Lance Berkman, who had the better chance of making it as a pro.
In 1998, Bubba was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1st round (23rd overall) of the amateur draft. Some were surprised he fell that low.
Though he expected to be up in the big leagues in only a couple of years, he had trouble adjusting to pro baseball. In particular, he struggled with the switch from aluminum to wooden bats. Though he'd been a slugger at Rice, he realized that he was not going to be a home run hitter as a pro. He completely re-made his game, shortening his swing, learning to bunt, and becoming more of a gap hitter.
It all came together for him in 2003, when he hit .361 AVG / .410 OBP / .635 SLG for the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s. The gaudy stats got him a cup of coffee with the Dodgers...and a move to New York. Minutes before the trading deadline, Bubba was told that he was being sent to the Yankees, along with Scott Proctor, in exchange for Robin Ventura.
He was not happy at being traded. At that time, no prospect would be. The Yankees had a well-deserved reputation for never giving their young players a chance.
But he showed up at spring training determined to prove himself - if only to catch the eye of a scout for another team. He had a terrific spring, hitting .357 AVG / .386 OBP / .690 SLG, and was clearly the best rookie at camp. Amazingly, he made the team as a reserve outfielder. Few rookies made the Yankees out of spring training in the Torre era, and Bubba was the only one to stick for any length of time.
His first at-bat as a Yankee came on April 9, 2004, in the 9th inning of a game that was already out of reach. Basically, Torre put the scrubs in because the score was 9-1. On a 1-2 count, Bubba smacked the ball into the right field seats. His first at-bat as a Yankee ended in a home run.
Two days later, on April 13, Easter Sunday, he got his first start as a Yankee. It was the kind of day dreams are made of. He made a fantastic, crashing-into-the-fence catch, and hit a three-run homer that put the Yanks ahead. Then he made another great catch. And a flashy sliding stop after a ball got past Gary Sheffield. The game was a Bubba Crosby highlight reel.
The crowd was going nuts. The YES announcers, at the game and in the studio, were referring to the game as a "Crosby Clambake" and were raving about the great routes Bubba took in the outfield. The fans gave him several standing ovations, cheered him wildly when he came to bat or took his spot in the outfield, and went crazy whenever a ball went anywhere near him. By the end of the game, they were chanting his name.
Of course, this being the Yankees, that performance got him a long stint on the bench, and eventually a trip back to Columbus. Bubba spent much of the next two years shuttling back and forth between New York and Columbus. His batting stats suffered; like many young players, he had trouble keeping his timing when spending long stretches on the bench. He'd be rusty when sent down to the minors, and just when he was getting back into the swing of things, he'd get called up again...to once again sit on the bench.
His defense, however, remained very solid. He was the best defensive centerfielder in the Yankees system, and Torre made use of him as a LIDR and pinch-runner.
The high point of Bubba's career thus far came on September 19, 2005. The Yankees were locked in a division race with the Red Sox; that month, every game counted. Every game was like a playoff game. And that night, Bubba hit the first walkoff homer of his life, sending the crowd, his teammates, and an entire city into ecstasy.
The season didn't end well, though. The Yankees ended up losing the ALDS to the Angels in five games. In Game 5, Gary Sheffield and Bubba collided in center-right field. That let the ball drop in. Two runs scored, which turned out to be the game...and the series. It was clearly Bubba's ball, but the crowd noise was so loud they couldn't hear each other.
Some fans blamed Bubba, some blamed Sheff, but the real blame probably lies with Torre. The problem was Sheffield was simply not used to Bubba's range and aggressiveness. Bernie Williams would never have gotten there. If Torre had used Bubba more often, instead of trotting out Tony Womack, Matt Lawton, and Ruben Sierra (none of whom hit better than Bubba and all of whom were a lot worse on defense), maybe he and Sheff would be used to each other, and the collision wouldn't have happened.
During the Hot Stove season that year, there was talk of Bubba being the Yankees' starting centerfielder. Joe Girardi thought Bubba had the talent to be an everyday player, and wanted to give him the chance. But Cashman, perhaps realizing that if he didn't get a superstar, Torre would keep using Bernie Williams, ended up signing Johnny Damon. Bubba was disappointed, but took it well, even giving up his number 18 to Damon without asking any recompense. (Damon, being the kind of guy he is, gave Bubba a Rolex anyway.)
Girardi ended up leaving the Yankees to manage the Marlins. He tried to trade for Bubba during spring training, but the Yankees refused.
For awhile, it looked like Bubba would finally get his chance in 2006. Yankees outfielders Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui both suffered what appeared to be season-ending wrist injuries. Bubba was getting the opportunity to play regularly, and was doing okay, hitting .286 AVG / .333 OBP / .357 SLG in May...when he injured his hamstring running out what should have been a double. He was out almost a month, and when he returned, Melky Cabrera and Bernie Williams had laid claim to the corner outfield spots. Bubba got very little playing time, and was designated for assignment on August 4, to make room for another pitcher.
He cleared waivers and was outrighted to Columbus, where he became the starting centerfielder and leadoff hitter. He was expecting to be called up when rosters expanded in September, but utility infielder Miguel Cairo injured his hamstring, and the Yankees decided to call up infielder Andy Cannizaro instead. Bubba was disappointed, but understood.
He became a minor league free agent at the end of the season. On November 10, 2006, he signed a major league contract with the Cincinnati Reds - the first Yankee grabbed off the free agent list. He did not make the opening day roster, however - a victim of the emergence of Rule 5 pick Josh Hamilton, also a lefty outfielder.
Bubba was cut late in spring training, cleared waivers, and accepted assignment to the Triple-A Louisville Bats. He would probably have been called up eventually; the Reds went through outfielders like Kleenex that season. But he played only two weeks for the Bats. He spent the rest of the season on DL with left shoulder tendinitis. Finally, on July 20, 2007, he had season-ending shoulder surgery. They hoped he would be fully recovered in time for spring training, but he wasn't. He signed a minor league contract with the Mariners in February 2008, but was released the day after he reported to camp when he failed his physical. He is currently a free agent again.
Bubba has a business degree from Rice University. In the off-season, he makes his home in the Houston area.