Brandon Crawford grew up watching Barry Bonds star for the Giants, and when he went to games at Candlestick as a child, Robby Thompson almost always was the second baseman. Crawford didn't need to watch Willie Mays in person to know his impact on the game, and as a professional, he has gotten to know the legendary outfielder.
In a few hours, Crawford will join those three on a very exclusive and impressive list. When manager Gabe Kapler released his lineup for Thursday's opener against the Mariners, Crawford was at shortstop and batting eighth. He will become the fourth player in the franchise's long history to start 10 consecutive openers.
"It's kind of crazy to think about, really," Crawford said earlier this spring. "Obviously the dream was to play for the Giants and I think that's pretty well-documented, but you never think about playing 10 consecutive opening days."
Crawford isn't alone in hitting double digits. Buster Posey started on opening day for nine straight seasons before opting out last summer; Brandon Belt did the same before an injury kept him out for the first few games of the 2020 season. Both also will reach 10 tonight, with Belt batting fifth and Posey seventh.
Posey already held the record for most opening day starts by a Giants catcher. Belt joins Willie McCovey (13) and Bill Terry (10) as the only Giants first basemen with 10 opening day starts. In their long history, the Giants have only had 11 players start 10 openers. Three of them, all close friends, will get there tonight.
"I feel very fortunate to be mentioned alongside all those names," Posey said. "I think I've been nicked up a little bit here the past few years, but the ability to make opening day starts and be on the field, I think our training staff deserves a lot of credit. I feel fortunate to have been able to play as long as I have. Craw and I talked about it when we first came up and I think when he signed his extension, about having the chance to play together as long as we have. I feel fortunate I've been able to play with him and Belt for (this) many years."
The lineup, in order, goes like this: Slater LF, Yastrzemski RF, Solano 2B, Longoria 3B, Belt 1B, Flores DH, Posey C, Crawford SS, Dubon CF. Gausman RHP
The Giants are facing lefty Marco Gonzales, and often times this season that sort of matchup will lead to a tweak. Mauricio Dubon likely will face a fair number of lefties as the shortstop, and with no DH spot most of the year, Belt will cede at-bats to Wilmer Flores. But opening day is a special deal, and Kapler said Wednesday that he always makes sure to look at more than just splits when dealing with the first lineup. It was important to get the three longtime Giants the start.
"We don't take anything like that lightly," he said. "You could be around for 10 or 15 years or making your debut, and any time you get to stand on the line for an opening day it's a huge honor. Definitely none of us, the coaching staff, myself included, take that lightly."