Joe Crede, third baseman for the Chicago White Sox, has come a long way since playing baseball for Fatima High School in Westphalia.
Joe Crede laughs with several Chicago White Sox players while downing a Gatorade on the field of the Kansas City Royals’ Kaufmann Stadium during batting practice. Occasionally, he fields a ground ball and tosses it back to home plate with little effort.
The 6-foot, 1-inch third baseman seems perfectly at ease in his black warm-up jersey and cap. After finishing fielding, he takes a few swings at home plate before heading toward the locker room to prepare for the game. On the way, he looks up into the stands and sees a group of enthusiastic youngsters waving signs that say “Westphalia” and “Go Joe Crede #24!” He grins slightly and waves before disappearing into the dugout.
It wasn’t so long ago that Joe, now 27, was in those young fans’ shoes. Growing up in Westphalia, he played baseball on the same dirt fields as those youngsters do now. Back then, a boyhood friend would ride down the street on his bike and shout out, “Come on, Joe, Joe from Kokomo!” and the two would run off to play baseball for hours.
Joe grew up worshipping the St. Louis Cardinals. Ozzie Smith, Tommy Herr and Willie McGee were among his favorites. It was during Joe’s first trip to Busch Stadium that he decided on his life’s endeavor.
“The first time I went to a Cardinals game, I said, ‘This is something I want to do and I’m gonna find a way to do it,’” he recalls.
Joe dedicated himself to his dream and played baseball every spring and summer. At Fatima High School, he was a two-time all-state selection and batted .559. As a pitcher during his senior year, he went 6-0.
Fans of all ages from Westphalia, Joe's hometown, travel to nearby games with signs cheering for the Missouri native.
After high school graduation, he was selected by the White Sox in the fifth round of the 1996 amateur entry draft. Having never wanted anything more, Joe packed his bags and moved to Sarasota, Fla., to play for the minor league Gulf Coast White Sox.
That first year away from home was difficult for Joe. While other graduates were going to nearby colleges, Joe was hundreds of miles from home playing on a minor league team.
“The only time I’d been away from home before was playing Legion ball for a week or so,” he says. “It kind of hit me after about two weeks. I was down there just living off every paycheck. I had to grow up real fast.”
Despite being an all-star in Westphalia, the humble young man was not surprised by his competition in the minor leagues.
“I knew going in that I wasn’t going to be the best player,” he says. “It seemed like growing up, I never felt like I was the best player on the team.”
Still, Joe held his own. During seven years of playing minor league baseball, he was a solid hitter and a stand-out third baseman.
In 2000, Joe got the chance to play for the Chicago White Sox for the first time when another player was injured. That call was one Joe had waited on for years.
“I don’t know if words can describe how great it felt,” he says. “It was something I wanted to do ever since I was a kid. To actually get called up, what an awesome feeling.”
Joe played seven games for Chicago that year and 17 more the next season. In ’01 and ’02, he played for the AAA Charlotte White Sox before becoming a fixture at third base for Chicago in 2003.
This season, the White Sox have the best record in Major League Baseball, and there is talk that Joe might win a Gold Glove award for his exceptional fielding. However, his batting has been streaky, and he’s playing with two herniated discs in his back.
“With the team winning, it takes almost all of the frustration out of it,” he says of his difficulties.
|Casey Breese, an 8-year-old from Westphalia, models his homemade T-shirt that reads, “Crede is from my hometown! Westphalia loves JOE!”
Regardless of his latest performance at the ballpark, Joe can rest assured he has many loyal fans back home. His wife, Lisa, and daughter, Anna Marie, live in Chicago and sometimes travel with him to road games. Joe also occassionally sees his parents and siblings in Missouri. Once a year, he visits Osage County and signs autographs for a local fund-raiser. Fans from Westphalia can’t say enough good things about Joe’s generosity and friendly demeanor.
“Joe is just so great,” says Carol Berhorst, a fan fromWestphalia. “I think I had 20 things and each kid had eight baseballs, and he signed them all. He’s so nice.”
Fans from back home travel to games when they get the chance and often watch his games on TV. Joe says he appreciates it.
“It’s awesome to have their support,” he says. “Everybody is real close and I’ve got a lot of friends from that area.”
In fact, that close-knit feeling is the reason Joe plans to return to his hometown one day.
“I’ve been to almost every state in the U.S.,” he says, “And I haven’t found a place that’s any nicer than Westphalia.”
For the latest on Joe Crede, log onto www.whitesox.com.