| March 20, 2022
By CCL Reporter, Kathryne Padilla --
The new general manager of the Walnut Creek Crawdads, Justin McCray, will be digging deep into his extensive baseball experience with the hopes of adding a minor league atmosphere to the Northern California summer collegiate baseball scene.
McCray first developed his love for baseball through his father, who played college and eventually professional baseball with the Los Angeles Dodgers. McCray viewed himself a lot like his dad, someone who loved the sport so much so that it turned into a career.
Justin McCray would play in the minor leagues for a little over eight years with the Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, and the Milwaukee Brewers. His passion for the game then led him to become a Major League scout, which he has done for various organizations for 16 years and counting.
Close to 365 days out of the year, McCray would be traveling to various states around the country, but there was something he always missed the most – his family. Ultimately, when the opportunity for him to become the Crawdad’s general manager presented itself, he was more than eager to jump on the offer as it would not only keep him home, but also around the game he loved.
“When scouting full-time, I was gone all the time,” McCray said. “I wanted to keep doing something [that]…is in my blood. This would be an interesting opportunity where I don't have to be gone.”
While McCray may have a long history in baseball, this will be the first time he is seeing an entirely different side of the sport from a business and logistics perspective. McCray is well-equipped, though, thanks to his experience and relationships with MLB managers to take the Crawdads to new heights. As an ex-player in the minor leagues, that quintessential atmosphere stuck with McCray. That is the environment he wants to create not only for Crawdads players, but also for the fans.
“It's not just the game,” McCray said. “There's a little bit of a show too; bringing the fun, bringing the kids…”
With the well-respected Brant Cummings leading the charge on the field as head coach, adding to the Crawdad’s fan experience will be the biggest goal for McCray in Summer 2022. To hit his target, McCray will primarily be focusing on maximizing attendance via promotions and other events.
“Every Saturday and Sunday we have home games, those are going to be our big promotional days,” McCray said.
While determining how to create this environment, McCray looked at other CCL teams he feels already provide this atmosphere. With new ideas spurring in his mind, he is hopeful he will be able to create an exhilarating energy all summer long.
“It's a show; it's entertainment, it's fun, "McCray said. “So that's the part I'm excited to try and do.”
McCray has a select team to help build his vision, and is hopeful he will be bringing on more staff members before the summer season begins.
Ryan Lovato, Kyle Taylor, Celine DeSaix, Allen DeSaix, and Austin Ota will all hold different responsibilities for the Crawdads. These talented individuals have already set a positive tone with McCray.
“…Especially when you're young, well-motivated energy is always good,” McCray said.
Not only will McCray be sharing some of his knowledge with his staff this year, he hopes to be an inspiration to his players.
“Hopefully they sit up straighter when I walk into the park, right?," McCray said with a grin.
McCray also plans to hold a Professional Scouting Day and invite scouts from across the MLB.
In the end, the Crawdads are looking to compete in the CCL and introduce a new fun and family-friendly atmosphere under McCray’s leadership. McCray emphasized, the ultimate goal is then to “win the CCL.”
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