Crosby recalls his baseball days before the Winter Classic

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Crosby could be wrong on some of the details, so we’ll omit his account of the game. Hey, it was a long time ago.

But what matters is this: Crosby remembers being maybe 9 or 10 years old and going to a summer hockey tournament. His parents would take him to his house in Cole Harbor, Nova Scotia.

“We said we should stop and try to watch a baseball game,” Crosby said.

They went to see the Boston Red Sox. Crosby remembers hanging around the dugout at batting practice, wanting a souvenir from Fenway Park, asking for a ball and getting one. His dad said that he’s pretty sure that’s right too.

“It was a really cool experience coming here at a young age,” Crosby said.

It’s great to look back now that Crosby will come off the bench and lead the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Boston Bruins in the Discover NHL Winter Classic 2023 at Fenway Park on Monday (2 p.m. ET; TNT, SN, TVAS).

[RELATED: More coverage of 2023 Discover NHL Winter Classic]

The Penguins captain has done just about everything in his hockey career, but one of the few things he hasn’t done is play in a ballpark. Each of their previous five outdoor NHL games occurred at a soccer venue.

As a kid, I was a fan of the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays in an area where a lot of people followed the Red Sox, and I played baseball and hockey.

“Growing up, it was a big deal,” Crosby said. “A lot of the guys were into both sports. We had the same coach for both. It was a totally different feeling, very relaxed. I had a lot of fun playing it. It was a completely different feeling than hockey.”

The Penguins’ website spoke to that coach, Paul Mason, for a story on Crosby that ran July 19, 2017. Crosby was an all-star third baseman and pitcher, helping his team win two championships in two seasons with Mason.

“The ball team won every game in provincials by the 10-run rule and went undefeated in every tournament,” Mason told the website. “It was almost unfair. We lost four games all year. That year, we had six no-hitters from different pitchers. [Crosby] I was one of them.”

Crosby wasn’t sure about that Sunday.

“I don’t know if I threw a no-hitter or not,” he said, smiling. “Maybe.”

Once again, it was a long time ago.

Crosby stopped playing baseball at some point because of the spring hockey tournaments. But he picked up the sport again while attending Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minnesota, in 2002-03.

“Just spring quarter,” Crosby said. “We had to pick a sport, because hockey was going to end, so we played baseball.”

Crosby told the story of his last baseball game on the “Spittin Chiclets” podcast on August 7, 2019.

Video: Players share their enthusiasm for the Winter Classic

One of his companions was jack johnson, who became a defenseman in the NHL and now plays for the Chicago Blackhawks. Johnson got tired of the brush pitches and charged the mound. A fight broke out. Crosby, who was on deck, grabbed the catcher to prevent him from surprising Johnson.

The sports director forced them to stay out for the rest of the season.

“Yeah,” Crosby said Sunday, laughing. “That was my last game.”

However, it was not his last memory of baseball. Crosby had a chance to practice hitting at PNC Park, the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, on September 8, 2010.

Beforehand, he asked teammate Mike Rupp if he wanted to go to a local batting cage to prepare.

“I’m glad I did it,” Crosby said, “because it was a wonderful day.”

Crosby didn’t just take a few swings at PNC Park. A lefty, he squashed a ball in the right field seats. He bounced out of the ballpark, and this time we don’t have to worry about mistaken memories. The video confirms it.

Watch on YouTube

“I got close a couple of times, and I finally got one,” Crosby said. “I was pretty excited. I mean, I always started to grow. I was getting on base, but I wasn’t hitting it for a long time. So to get one there, it was really cool.”

Rupp was amazed.

“His swing with his left hand was smooth,” said Rupp, now an analyst for NHL Network. “It sounds silly to say, but I mean it. He was almost like Ken Griffey Jr.”

You’d think Crosby could homer at Fenway Park, famous for the Pesky Pole, the foul pole just 302 feet down the right-field line.

“If I put one out there [at PNC Park]I hope,” Crosby said. “But that would be wishful thinking now. I mean, how long ago was that?”

Crosby was then 23 years old. He is now 35.

“I’d like to think I still have that power,” he said with a smile. “I dont know.”

Who knows though?

Crosby remains an elite athlete. He leads the Penguins in goals (19), assists (24) and points (43) this season, and entered the New Year tied for 13th in the NHL in scoring with the Florida Panthers forward. Matthew Tkachuk and Winnipeg Jets forward kyle connor.

“That guy can do whatever he decides he wants to do,” Rupp said. “I have friends who have played in the big leagues. I’m not saying Sid can hang out in the big leagues, but you could say this guy has played baseball before. He’s awesome.”

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