ST. LOUIS — Carl Crawford has never really gotten the adulation he deserved or desired. But with his home-run robbing, MVP-winning catch in Tuesday's All-Star Game, he may have finally caught the nation's attention.
"He's there now," Rays manager Joe Maddon. "There's no denying it or hiding it now. He's there. And I'm so happy for him."
Maddon and most of the Rays' All-Star contingent were piling onto a bus Wednesday afternoon for the four-hour ride to Kansas City, where the season resumes Friday.
Crawford, though, was headed in style to Hollywood, an invited guest for the Wednesday night taping of the ESPY Awards, an opportunity to be part of the athletic elite he'd like to get more often.
Tuesday's show on the All-Star stage should help, as did his genuine and humble performance afterward, repeating how surprised he was at the honor: "I'm just so happy I don't really know what to say."
"I could see he really did enjoy it (Tuesday) night," Maddon said. "And knowing him, I think it has a chance to really propel him."
As much as speed is a huge part of Crawford's game, his timing has been an issue. For his first six seasons, he was great when the Devil Rays were god-awful. Then when the Rays got good last year and drew some attention, he had his worst season.
"For years, Carl's talents have been well known within the industry and especially the AL East, but until (Tuesday) night he hadn't really burst onto the national stage," Rays team president Matt Silverman said.
"That catch will remain a part of All-Star Game lore for decades to come. It will be a hallmark of his already stellar career, but I think his most notable accomplishments are still ahead of him."
Added agent Brian Peters: "With the baseball world watching, Carl once again demonstrated what a tremendous, well-rounded player he is. And the thing that makes me most proud is how hard C.C. works to better himself."
Crawford got plenty of attention from Tuesday's catch, a day-long loop of video highlights, YouTube postings and photos splashed on the front pages of Web sites and newspaper sports sections. SportsCenter practically programmed around him, compiling packages of the best defensive plays in All-Star Games and the top home-run robberies of the season.
But Crawford, 27, would like it to last.
He spoke candidly last week about his lack of recognition relative to his accomplishments, with four stolen base titles and three All-Star selections by his peers, wondering aloud why that was the case: Because he doesn't hit home runs? Isn't good on TV? Doesn't have a catchy name? Ticked off the wrong person along the way?
"I never did the self-promoting thing, I shied away from wanting to do stuff like that," Crawford said. "I was always told if you worked hard and you did what you needed to do on the field, everything else would take care of itself. So I took that approach, but that approach didn't work for me. Obviously, it didn't."
For years, he lived with the consolation of being assured he'd be a big star if he played in a larger market. What attention there was locally had to be shared as he was drafted behind Josh Hamilton, overshadowed by Rocco Baldelli and eclipsed by Evan Longoria.
Crawford looks at the way Longoria — who also was invited to the ESPYs, as was David Price — has become a huge national star in the past year and makes it clear he is happy for him, but wonders how that came to be.
"This was a place they said it would never happen, and I'm sitting there like, 'Yep, well, it happened, and it never happened before,' " Crawford said. "It just seemed to skip me for some reason."
What he seems to find most frustrating is most obvious: that he is the kind of player fans anywhere would find exciting.
"It's just one of those things, you would think a player … " he said, then started over. "I'm not tooting my own horn, but I'm not a boring player. If I had a chance to go watch somebody who can do the stuff I can do on the field, I'd buy a ticket. So I don't understand that. … I don't know."
Maybe now, people will catch on.
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com.