Thank You Rays, For Doing the Right Thing.
I still find myself before every Tampa
Bay Rays game still glancing down the Bullpen “clubhouse” tunnel
expecting to see St. Petersburg Police Department Officer David
Crawford stroll around the corner. But then the reality hits me again
and it is tough.
I had to go on a work project that
could not be delayed to San Francisco, California the week of Officer
Crawford’s viewing and funeral, so in some ways, I did not get to say
“goodbye”. It has been hard to go to some games knowing his
presence is there for me, still wandering around that little
cubbyhole near the Rightfield foul pole. But that also comforts me to
know he might be watching over “the boys”.
So when the Rays announced that they
would permanently “retire” the official calls signs of the 3 St.
Petersburg Police Officers prior to the Friday, May 13th
contest against the Baltimore Orioles, I gave out a sign of relief.
The trio were the first officers lost in the line of duty in 30
years. All three have a long history of working various Rays games at
Tropicana Field and were well known to fans and employees throughout
From Friday on, I will be able to look
above the Rightfield stands and say a nonverbal “hello” to the
Crawford and his fellow officers who befriended me and our Section
(138) for so long. I will be able to remember, honor and celebrate a
police officer who I described on a local television station as a
“Teddy bear with a heart”. I will again be able to hoist up my
drink and salute a true baseball friend.
“These men were part of the Rays
family” said Rays President Matt Silverman. “Their service
contributed to a safer St. Petersburg, and they also helped create a
more welcoming environment at Rays games. We will miss them dearly,
and they will not be forgotten“.
I had spoken of wanting to do something
pretty much like this before in the Rightfield location before the
2011 season began. But mine was on a more personal note for myself
and the friends within the Section 138 family, possibly just
scratching in Crawford’s name within the coats of yellow paint on the
RF foul pole that he leaned on for so many past Rays games.
I find this honor to be above and
beyond anything I could have envisioned or performed myself. I stand
and applaud the Rays management, ownership and the team as a whole
for providing this location for friends to always remember these
exceptional three SPPD members.
Crawford perished on the night of
February 21st after an altercation with a young armed robbery suspect
and will have the “call signs” of fellow SPPD members Sergeant
Thomas Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz, who were both slain
on January 24th, just four weeks prior to Crawford while
attempting to arrest a fugitive during a raid in St. Petersburg.
Thank you Rays. This remembrance for
these three brave men where their 3 SPPD “call signs” will now
be permanently displayed above Rightfield giving the entire Rays
family from top to bottom a place to glance towards before the start
of Rays contests.
I look forward to saluting and raising a cup to these three fallen heroes Friday night. It will bring a sense of closure for me
towards understanding the loss. It will also bring me a greater sense
of closeness knowing that possibly Baitinger, Yaslowitz and Crawford
will always be there, guarding the Rays Republic.