Showcase | Story | 6/11/2019

PG welcomes Crow-Armstrong

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Pete Crow-Armstrong (Perfect Game)

PHOENIX – With this year’s Perfect Game National Showcase being held at Chase Field, the domed home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, a large and talented contingent of California prospects decided to accept their invitations and be a part of the show.

Included in that group is one 17-year-old outfielder/left-hander who had never attended a PG event before and yet managed to come into the event as the No. 1-ranked national prospect in the class of 2020. Perfect Game Nation, please open your arms and welcome Pete Crow-Armstrong into your ever-expanding family.

That lofty ranking tells anyone paying attention that Armstrong-Crow is a talented ballplayer, one that the PG scouting staff was eager to get an official look at even if many of those scouts had seen him at one time or another previously.

But just being able to watch the 6-foot-1, 175-pound prospect and Vanderbilt commit perform on the biggest showcase stage in all of amateur baseball first-hand was highly anticipated, and the young man himself was even feeling a bit of an adrenaline rush when he walked into Chase Field Tuesday morning.

“I’m excited to be here,” Crow-Armstrong told PG while standing just outside Chase’s visitor’s dugout. “I’m coming in wanting to spend some time with my buddies and play some ball. I’m not trying to do too much; I’m just trying to stay true to my game. This is obviously a big atmosphere, so I’m just doing my best to stay within myself and have a good time with my friends.”

Crow-Armstrong is here with of his parents, Matt and Ashley Crow-Armstrong; both are teachers these days but there’s also a side story. They were actors who met while being a part of a television show and, in fact, Ashley still acts. Her Wikipedia page reports that she is perhaps best known for her role of Sandra Bennet on the  TV show “Heroes.”

Matt left his acting career behind, returned to school to get a teaching degree and has now been teaching English at Sierra Canyon School for the last five years. Pete said he’s proud of how hard his dad worked to get to that degree and start a second career and, as for his mom, he said simply that she has always been both he his dad’s “rock.”

On Tuesday, Ashley shared with PG her thoughts about her only son being invited to the PG National Showcase:

“I think that every opportunity that we get to play with other players of this caliber and at this level is a great (one),” she said. “Perfect Game is a wonderful organization and it’s a great way to sort of begin this process that is going to happen for his whole senior year. We’re thrilled to be here and we’re always super grateful.”

While this is Crow-Armstrong’s first go-around with PG, he has extensive experience playing with USA Baseball, which is likely how he got on PG’s radar. He’s played with the 12u, 15u and 18u national teams and also participated in 12u and 17u National Team Development Programs.

He played in all nine games in the outfield for the 2018 18u National Team during the Pan-American Championships in Panama and hit .375 and scored 14 runs. He called it “some of the best baseball you’ll ever get to play” but also told PG the real lessons learned come from dealing with adversity.

Team USA, regardless of age-group, is often put in situations that require young players to come together as teammates very quickly, and Crow-Armstrong found that under the circumstances, it’s really never that hard to do. He’s played for World Cup championships in Mexico, Columbia and Panama, winning two of them, and learned some things along the way.

“You make really good friends, you’re coached by really good coaches, you get to go play in different countries where people don’t always want to see you win, and that adversity you face is once-in-a lifetime,” he said. “I’ve been lucky enough to do it a few times and it’s something that I’ll always think of as one of my favorite baseball experiences for sure.”

Crow-Armstrong, who calls Sherman Oaks home, just wrapped-up his junior year at Southern California high school baseball heavyweight Harvard-Westlake in Los Angeles.

The head coach at HWHS is Jered Halpert, who served as the West team’s coach at last year’s PG All-American Classic. Shaun Kort and Junior Brignac – the latter played six seasons of minor league baseball – are the H-W assistants who Crow-Armstrong works with the most.

“Everyone one of my coaches at Harvard-Westlake, in my opinion, could coach at the next level or have a head coaching job at another high school,” he said. “I’m just surrounded by a lot of great baseball minds. School-wise and baseball-wise, it’s a lot like college. It was a tough adjustment for me going in, learning how to manage and balance (my time).”

During an interview with the Los Angeles Times conducted in May, Halpert had this to say about Crow-Armstrong: “He’s a very cognizant player. He’s takin in things. He’s watching previous at-bats. He’s formulating ideas and plans and he’s willing to have small failures for the larger picture of success. You don’t do that as a high school player.”

Harvard-Westlake has already produced four Perfect Game All-Americans – Austin Wilson (2010), Lucas Giolito (2012), Max Fried (2012) and Jack Flaherty (2014). Giolito, Fried and Flaherty are all in the big leagues now, with the White Sox, Braves and Cardinals, respectively.

“They’re used as examples a lot because they all set great ones,” Crow-Armstrong said. “Personally, I’ve known Jack since I was 7 (years old) so he’s been a good helping hand for me whenever I need one. Having guys like that to look up to is huge for us, and when I was a freshman and sophomore it was big for me.

“The things they did for our program kind of put us on the map, and they’re having huge success with three of them in the big leagues right now.”

Harvard-Westlake, of course, isn’t the only high-octane program in Southern California. Schools like Orange Lutheran, J Serra, Huntington Beach frequently find residence in the PG High School National Rankings through the years.

Crow-Armstrong is rostered with the PG Maroon team here this week along with several other highly ranked So Cal 2020 prospects: No. 4-ranked right-hander/third baseman Jared Jones (Southern California commit), No. 33 infielder Drew Bowser (Stanford), No. 34 catcher/outfielder Kevin Parada (Georgia Tech) and No. 146 catcher/first baseman Emilio Morales (Southern Cal).

“So Cal has amazing baseball,” Crow-Armstrong said. “It’s crazy to be friends with so many players that are so good and I can always find a way to meet up with them. … I grew up playing every sport just trying to get a feel for what I wanted to do and I ended up just loving baseball. The So Cal atmosphere is just crazy and it’s really fun to play there.”

He told PG he’s been enamored with Vanderbilt – both the school and the baseball program – ever since he was about 11 years old. As he went through the recruiting process he went on a visit to Nashville and discovered, in his own words, “Everything was even better than I imagined it was.”

“I  felt very at home there, you’re surrounded by some very smart people there, and I just thought it would be a great environment for me to be in,” Crow-Armstrong added.

His mom couldn’t be any more pleased: “Super proud,” Ashley said. “It’s an amazing program and (head coach) Tim Corbin, that man is very special. We’re thrilled and very, very, very grateful, and however everything shakes down we remain grateful.”

The No. 1 ranking PG bestowed on Crow-Armstrong is something he wears like a badge of honor and, in fact, he equated it to being invited to the PG National because he views it as an honor. He tries not to think about it and let it effect the way he plays the game, but it is something he’s extremely proud of.

Ashley Crow-Armstrong, on the other hand, doesn’t pay attention to rankings. There is only one thing on her mind when she’s watching her son play.

“Just that he continues to enjoy it, I think, is my best hope for him,” she said. “As long as he’s having a great time and having fun, I’m thrilled for him. … “There is absolutely nothing better than watching your kid do something they love. … I think, on a day like this, enjoy yourself. Be yourself and enjoy yourself, do what you do, have a good time, enjoy your friends.”

Son Pete isn’t about to disappoint his mom and certainly not over the next couple of days here at Chase Field.

“I’m trying to keep this as fun as possible for myself,” he said. “I love to hit; I love to play the field. I attribute a lot of my success to defense and I have great coaches that I work with who are there for me daily at my high school field. We put in a lot of work and I really couldn’t have done it by myself; it’s a lot of people chipping in.”

It would appear to be a given that Crow-Armstrong will be invited to be a member of the West Team at the PG All-American Classic in San Diego come August, making him the fifth Harvard-Westlake prospect to perform at Petco Park. He called it another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that he’d embrace with all of his being.

“What I’m most happy about the opportunities I’ve gotten through baseball,” he concluded. “I feel like I’ve got to learn a lot about life, I got to learn a lot about people and I’ve got to experience other countries.

“I’ve been blessed to have developed like I have and, again, it’s because of my friends, my family, my coaches and the guys that I’m out here right now; they’ve all helped me get to where I’m at right now.”

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