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Chris Sale and Kutter Crawford were former FGCU stars who started playing for the Red Sox over Labor Day weekend

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Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Kutter Crawford (79), a former FGCU star, pitches during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park.

Dave Tollett got a text last Thursday, then found out for sure Saturday night another one of his FGCU baseball players was making his Major League Baseball debut.

Tollett researched all the available flights and finally found one that would allow him to fly to Boston to catch Kutter Crawford’s game against the Cleveland Indians on Sunday at 1:20 p.m.

Tollett stated, “They’ve been moving people upward.” “They are so hard-hit due to COVID.”

Crawford, 25, was activated in place of pitcher Nick Pivetta, who joined nine Boston teammates by being placed on the COVID-19 list.

On top of simply the thrill of making his debut, Crawford also was celebrating a return from Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2019 season, coincidentally like another former Eagle and current Red Sox pitcher, seven-time All-Star Chris Sale.

Sale recovery:Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale will be ready for the next stage of rehab.

Sale does not have to be rushed.Chris Sale will slow down for the Red Sox during recovery from Tommy John surgery.

Crawford picked:MLB Draft: FGCU’s Kutter and Julio Gonzalez were selected by Garrett Anderson on the last day

Tollett arrived and dropped his bags at the hotel before heading to Fenway Park. Crawford’s parents Neal and Kristy were the first people he saw.

Tollett stated that Tollett’s dad and mom are the first to call at will. “Things such as these make you proud.”

Kutter Crawford's father, Neal, waits at the will call window to get his tickets to see his son make his MLB debut for the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021.

Tollett was not the only person there to see Crawford. Crawford was a 16th-round selection by Boston in 2017. It was attended by about 25 relatives and friends. A third person was able stay. 

Sale, who just returned from more than a year away from a big-league mound because of his own surgery, was unable to be in the Red Sox clubhouse due to COVID-19 restrictions. He didn’t miss it.

Tollett stated that Tollett had been told by the authorities to return home. “He texted me, saying that he was in isolation in the pressbox. Although I could not be in the clubhouse, I was going to this one. They had to find me an apartment.

Crawford didn’t have a great debut.

The right-hander walked the leadoff batter on nine pitches, then gave up a pair of singles to load the bases. He was able to escape with only two runs, both on sacrifice fly, and a third out. In the second, he surrendered a leadoff double and then a two-out RBI triple. After a 419-foot homer by Franmil Reyes, Crawford walked the next batter and was then pulled.

His pitching line included 2 innings, 5 hit, 5 earned runs and 2 strikeouts. 

FGCU baseball coach Dave Tollett, far right, attended the MLB debut for Kutter Crawford, center, with the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021.

Tollett had the opportunity to attend dinner with Crawford’s family and friends.

Tollett declared, “He was happy.” “He said, “I’ll be returning.” “I’ve got my feet wet.”

Crawford also had a second message. One message that Tollett relayed was from Sale.

Sale wrote in the text, “Not the way that he wanted to go. But the first one is always an awful shot anyway.” He got six more outs than I did in my debut.”

Sale surrendered a hit, a walk, but didn’t retire anyone in his MLB debut with Chicago White Sox in 2010.

Manager Alex Cora had also some encouraging words.

“I wanted him to take a deep breath and enjoy the situation,” Cora told MassLive after removing Crawford. “It’s Fenway Park on a Sunday afternoon. There’s nothing better than that. There’s only one MLB debut. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a good one or you struggle. It’s something you still dream about as a kid. And I wanted him to take a deep breath, look around, see the whole thing. … With time I know he will contribute. He’ll be part of this.”

Crawford, who had Tommy John surgery in August, put together a strong season at Double-A Portland as well as Triple-A Worcester, with a 4.16 ERA, 103 strikeouts, and 13 walks in 75.2 innings.

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (41), a former FGCU star, pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning at Fenway Park on Monday.

Tollett was then awarded a bonus for the trip. Sale, 32 years old, was going to be pitching against Tampa Bay on the next day. Tollett had visited St. Petersburg five days before to witness Sale’s debut since 2019. He allowed six hits and two runs over six innings, winning 3-2.

Tollett stated, “It was crazy.” “It was almost like the World Series atmosphere. It was packed to see Chris.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been more nervous for him pitching.”

Tollett watched as the Red Sox built a 7-1 lead for Sale. But then, in the fourth, Boston committed two errors on one play, which resulted in four runs. Sale’s day ended with two infield singles. In 10 innings, the Red Sox lost 11-10.

Tollett explained, “They made this error and they throw them away.” “It should be 7-1 and he’s on cruise control.”

FGCU baseball coach Dave Tollett, right, with former Eagles pitcher Kutter Crawford, who made his MLB debut for the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021.

Tollett is positive that despite the disappointing results, there are still many things to be proud of on this trip. He was able to see the first Eagle to play in the majors, right-hander Casey Coleman with the Cubs, and there are now six pitchers who have made it — including Crawford. 

Tollett stated, “It’s just great for a coach to do that.” It’s their childhood dream. It’s their dream, and it finally came true. Crawford is your only hope. He is a major leaguer. He made it all the way to the Big Leagues.

“Whether it be a cup of coffee, or a seven time All-Star, it is amazing to have two people on the same team.

Greg Hardwig is a sports journalist for The News-Press and Naples Daily News. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter: @NDN_Ghardwig, email him at ghardwig@naplesnews.com. Support local journalism with this special subscription offer at https://cm.naplesnews.com/specialoffer/

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