07/26/2023 7:25 AM
Article By: Daniel Curren
Throughout his 20 years at the helm of the Cotuit Kettleers, head coach Mike Roberts has formed countless relationships with his current and former players. Roberts has coached MLB stars like Jason Kipnis, Ryan Braun, Mike Yastrsemski, and more. But no relationship is quite like the one Roberts has formed with assistant coach Danny Crossen throughout his life.
Crossen has never played a game for the Kettleers, but few individuals have ever meant more to the organization than he has. Growing up in Cotuit, his family hosted Kettleers players every year. Crossen hosted future MLB players Aaron Harang and Cameron Rupp during those years.
Despite growing up in a family where his parents and brother all played lacrosse, watching his host brothers succeed in baseball inspired Crossen to be on the diamond.
“I kind of grew that whole love for baseball by just being around all these college guys every single summer,” Crossen said. “Seeing all those guys that we hosted playing college baseball kind of inspired me to go on and do so.”
During his childhood, Crossen became a bat boy for the Kettleers. He spent his days chasing foul balls and interacting with the players. In 2010, the Kettleers won the Cape League Championship when Crossen was a bat boy. Getting to rush the field after the final out was one of his favorite childhood memories.
This energy from the young Crossen caught the eyes of Roberts at the beginning of his tenure as head coach. After first knowing Crossen through the Kettleers youth camp, Roberts began helping Crossen improve his baseball skills.
“He was in camp and we and I mean, we love the campers,” Roberts reminisced. “Then I remember throwing batting practice to him out here quite often.”
As Crossen moved into his early teenage years, he remained involved with the Kettleers, this time as a bullpen catcher. Without anyone giving him the initiative, he threw on the catcher’s gear and caught bullpens from Division I pitchers as a 14-year-old. In all of this, he was also learning how to play catcher for the first time.
“I asked him one day down the old bullpen, ‘Danny, are you a catcher?’” Roberts asked. “He said ‘no, I'm not a catcher.’ and there he was catching college guys.”
Crossen also played hockey growing up, which he believed would help him adapt quickly to catching.
“I thought it was another great way to stay around the team,” Crossen said. “I also had Cameron Rupp, who was a catcher for Texas, inspire me to start catching a little bit. So I figured it was just a really good step to develop and kind of get myself ready.”
When Crossen eventually graduated high school and began college at Northeastern, he was looking to continue his baseball career. Little did he know, he would get some help from an old friend.
“I called [Northeastern Head Coach Mike Glavine] and said ‘this is a great young man, he's an excellent student, he's a hard worker you know I encourage you to accept him into the program,’” Roberts reflected. “It wasn't just me, it was a lot of people, and Danny biding his time, but in the last three years he played great for Northeastern.”
Roberts was on a team that helped Crossen make the team at Northeastern, where he hit .301 with a .826 OPS in 616 plate appearances over the course of five seasons. Roberts has known Crossen throughout his entire coaching tenure, and he has made a major impact on Crossen’s passion for baseball.
“He kind of helped inspire my love for the game. He's helped me learn how to hit, field and kind of kept me around,” Crossen said of his coach. “He's been a great inspiration to me and our relationship continues to develop from when I was a bat boy all the way up until now.”
Crossen recently finished his fifth season at Northeastern, effectively ending his collegiate baseball career. After spending the last two summers in the New England Collegiate League, Crossen decided to come home for his first summer as a college graduate.
Crossen and Roberts ran into each other over the winter, where Roberts offered him an assistant coaching position with the Kettleers for the 2023 season. Crossen eagerly accepted and the two were anxious to be working together again.
“I look at Danny as family,” Roberts said. “When we get the opportunity to have someone who has grown up in the Cotuit community to be involved in the Kettleers program, I think it's my responsibility to see if we can find a role for that individual somehow.”
Just weeks after playing in his final collegiate game, Crossen has begun making the transition between playing and coaching. So far, it has been a challenging but rewarding process.
“It definitely hasn't been the easiest. I want to be out on the field,” Crossen said. “But it's nice being able to just see that whole other side of baseball that I haven't seen my whole life.”
Crossen’s primary coaching roles have involved infield defense, hitting, and he has served as the first base coach. His age and recent college baseball experience has made him a relatable person for players to go to.
“A lot of times players are playing for coaches who haven't played in 20 years or so,” Crossen said. “They look to me as a coach, but also somebody that knows what they're going through. So it's a really interesting but beneficial relationship.”
Coach Roberts sees a lot of value in what Crossen brings to the Cotuit dugout. His persistence and communication have made him a vital contributor to the Kettleers’ success this season.
“His work habits are impeccable,” Roberts said. “I look at him as an experienced 24-year-old because of how much playing experience he had at Northeastern.”
Crossen took until his third year at Northeastern to get consistent playing time, and had to wait until after the pandemic to play a full season. Roberts sees his career as something players should take note of.
“I think he's a great example of how you have a career and you bide your time. You look at what Danny did, and I think players will look at that,” Roberts said. “That's important for him to see that you don't have to be a star your freshman or sophomore year. You can bide your time and continue to work and develop and then become a really, really good player.”
Thanks to this opportunity, Crossen is looking to get into coaching full-time when he feels ready to make that jump.