ST. PETERSBURG — Ever since Carl Crawford got a chance, as an awestruck high schooler, to see the Gold Glove award sitting in outfielder Devon White's house, he wanted one of his own.
"I just like the way it looked," he said.
As Crawford starred during most of his 8½ seasons in leftfield for the Rays, he grew to covet what it meant, too — the honor of being named the best defensive player at your position — and increasingly frustrated to be excluded.
Now as he leaves the Rays as a free agent, Crawford finally has his own, named Tuesday, along with third baseman Evan Longoria, who won his second straight.
"I was so happy when my agent called and told me, I couldn't believe it," Crawford said on a conference call. "I figured it would be a long shot again. I was hoping that I won it. I really wanted to win it. But when you've been waiting so long, you just never know."
Longoria, 25, said winning a second straight Gold Glove — only two third basemen have done so at a younger age, Brooks Robinson and Eric Chavez — felt just as good as the first.
"It's still an awesome achievement and something I'm very proud of," he said on a conference call. "It's one thing … going into the year I really focus on, and to be able to see the fruits of your labor pay off, it's a gratifying feeling."
The awards are voted on by the league managers and coaches (who can't pick their own players), with all outfielders lumped together and three chosen. With Crawford and Seattle's Franklin Gutierrez winning their first (and Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki winning his 10th), the Angels' Torii Hunter — Crawford's close friend — was denied his 10th. "I finally got one from him," Crawford cracked.
Crawford's victory may have been a product of his performance this season as well as the voters finally acknowledging his body of work. "I think it's a combination of both," he said. "People paying more attention to it and obviously I had to do my part on the field — I think I played a pretty good leftfield this year."
Longoria said he was glad to see Crawford finally get his, that "he probably should have won it a lot more times."
That Crawford will no longer be playing behind him hasn't sunk in yet, Longoria said, and probably won't until he signs. "It's going to be sad to see, but wherever he goes and whatever he gets, he's deserving of that."
Crawford's destination may not be clear for a while, with a half-dozen teams (including the Angels, Red Sox, Nationals and Tigers) said to be lining up to make offers likely to exceed $100 million over six or seven years.
Thus far, Crawford said the plan is to take free agency slowly, with little info yet from agent Brian Peters. "We're just kind of waiting around to see what's going to happen," Crawford said. "We're not like rushing or nothing."
But he knows exactly where his Gold Glove is going:
"Right in the middle of my living room."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]