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With big-league aspirations, Curtis High School pitcher Josiah O'Bannon found the ideal mentor - Seattle Mariners shortstop JP Crawford

As a Tacoma Rainiers' batboy in 2019, O'Bannon got to know Crawford during his brief stint in the minors. The two have maintained communication.
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Come this spring, Curtis High School baseball coach Bryan Robinson saw a different Josiah O'Bannon.

The teenager's confidence was brimming as the projected Vikings' ace pitcher. His frame filled out a good 40 pounds with muscle. And his pitches snapped with juice and movement.

"Josiah wants to do everything he can beyond high school to play," Robinson said.

Oh yeah, O'Bannon has his own ace up the sleeve - sounding-board mentor J.P. Crawford, the everyday shortstop of the Seattle Mariners.

Back in the spring of 2019, O'Bannon was a lanky sophomore trying to find his way with Curtis varsity baseball. It was then he got a text message from a teammate's family member about a cool job.

The Tacoma Rainiers - the Marners' Triple-A minor-league affiliate - were looking for bat boys. O'Bannon showed interest in one of the positions, and was hired immediately.

His biggest responsibility? Arriving three hours before home games to rub mud into hundreds of baseballs so the team's pitchers could grip them easier before their outings.

After that, O'Bannon had down time to hang out in the clubhouse, and get to know some of the Mariners' better prospects.

One of them was Crawford, a California native who was the 16th overall selection by the Philadelphia Phillies out of high school in the 2013 major league draft.

Seattle acquired the up-and-coming shortstop in a trade late in 2018. Four months late, Crawford reported to the Rainiers.

"I clicked with him from the jump," O'Bannon said. "I was just sitting there, and he goes, 'What's up, lil' dude?'"

And that started a month-long fellowship between the two.

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"He was basically like an older brother," O'Bannon said. "It felt like we knew each other already.

"We talked about video games, life, baseball."

After 31 games in Tacoma, Crawford received news May 9 he was being called up to the major leagues - and was expected to join the Mariners in Boston during a road trip.

O'Bannon helped load Crawford's bags from the clubhouse in his car to see him off.

"That was definitely an eye-opening experience watching somebody get called up," O'Bannon said. "He was like, 'I am off to Boston.'"

And Crawford hasn't been back to Tacoma. But the relationship has continued on.

In fact, for the Mariners' final home game that season, Crawford invited O'Bannon up to T-Mobile Park as a guest - and ended up giving him a handful of bats, and pairs of batting gloves and cleats.

O'Bannon also received some advice moving forward in baseball.

"The most important thing he told me was to stay focused ... and stay on the grind," O'Bannon said. "It's going to be hard, but if you put your mind to anything, you'll be able to do it."

Those words have stuck with O'Bannon, who has emerged as a team leader as a senior, and will likely land at a local junior college in the area.

"He likes to have a great time at practice, but works really hard," Robinson said. "He is not hard on himself.

"I don't know how J.P. conducts himself, but Josiah carries himself in a way where baseball does not take him down ... because it can be a negative sport."

O'Bannon said every other week or so, he and Crawford chat on social media. The major leaguer even watches some of the teenager's highlight videos.

"He's free, loose and kind," O'Bannon said.