When Crawford signed a long-term deal with the Rays prior to the 2005 season, he let it be known that if the team was willing to make a financial commitment to him, he wanted to make a financial commitment to the Rays Baseball Foundation, which helps fuel the program.
"This is just a way for me to kind of give back, I guess," Crawford said. "[It's] just something that's going to be positive for the organization in helping youth baseball in the area.
"You always want to try to do something to help younger kids. So when I have an opportunity like this, I want to take advantage of it."
The Rays Baseball Foundation teamed up with Crawford, the city of Tampa, J.O. DeLotto and Sons, Metro PCS and Bryant Heating and Cooling on the project. West Tampa Little League is the second field to be refurbished under the Rays Field Renovation Program, which is dedicated to rebuilding youth fields throughout the Tampa Bay region. In 2006, historic Oliver Field at Campbell Park in St. Petersburg underwent a major overhaul.
Crawford said he gets more out of helping the kids than they get from receiving his help.
"You always want to be able to do something like this," Crawford said. "It will be the first time I've had a chance to do something like this, so I was kind of looking forward to it."
The announcement came during an afternoon ceremony attended by Tampa mayor Pam Iorio, Rays president Matt Silverman, Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and a crowd of approximately 200.
"West Tampa Little League's fields hold great historical significance to the surrounding community, making them an ideal choice for our program," Friedman said. "Many of Tampa's great amateur and professional baseball stars grew up playing here. As this community's Major League Baseball team, we are mindful of our duty to help preserve their legacy for future generations. We look forward to the completion of this project, and to many others that will help revitalize our communities' assets and grow the great game of baseball."
The list of Major League players who have called West Tampa Little League home includes Fred McGriff, Tino Martinez, Lou Piniella, Tony La Russa, Dave Magadan, Luis Gonzales, Ken Suarez and Nardi Contreras.
"We are pleased to be partnering with the Rays on this project," Iorio said. "The Rays have been such active community partners, and this initiative ensures West Tampa Little League, a place where many dreams have been realized, will continue to benefit our local children for years to come."
Silverman said he believes in getting the organization involved.
"This is exactly the type of investment and activism we expect the organization to make in the community," Silverman said.
The renovation work includes a total makeover of the three fields in the West Tampa Little League complex by the Rays' grounds crew that includes new bases, pitching mounds and rubbers, a new concession stand and the installation of a new bleacher roof on one set of bleachers.
Upon completion of the project, the Rays will sponsor a baseball clinic for the West Tampa Little League, hosted by Rays players such as Crawford.
Finding the right slot: In Spring Trainings past, left-hander Scott Kazmir has struggled with finding the right arm slot for delivering his pitches. To his credit, he has paid attention to what has helped him get back on track and has incorporated those things into his mindset. According to Kazmir, finding a good arm slot is contingent on consistency with his mechanics and delivery.
"I've been spending a lot of time working on making the same delivery," Kazmir said. "That lets you keep the same arm slot and release point."
Kazmir will have his first start of the spring Saturday in Dunedin against the Blue Jays, when he is slated to pitch two innings.
Up next: The Rays host the Yankees in their Grapefruit League opener on Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET at Progress Energy Park. Right-hander James Shields will start for the Rays and will be followed by right-handers Edwin Jackson, Tim Corcoran, Shawn Camp, Ruddy Lugo, Gary Glover, Scott Dohmann, Juan Salas and left-hander J.P. Howell. Left-hander Andy Pettitte is scheduled to start for the Yankees.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.