Interview by Kenneth Miles
Trenton swelled with pride at the announcement that Narciso Crook signed a minor league contract with the legendary Boston Red Sox in November, and when he made a splash at the start of the season with two home runs. The charismatic 27-year-old outfielder is no stranger to the major leagues. Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds at 17 years-old, Crook spent eight years in the minor leagues honing his skills. In 2021, the Trenton Central High School alumnus signed with the Chicago Cubs, where he played 101 games with the Triple A Iowa Cubs, batted .260 with 19 home runs and 67 runs batted in.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Crook moved to Trenton, New Jersey when he was 11 years-old when his mother married former professional football player Al Darby. Crook has the kind of heart and drive that makes him truly deserving to be called one of Trenont’s finest. Trenton Journal’s publisher and founder, Kenneth Miles, recently sat down with Crook to talk baseball, the best spots to eat in Trenton, and the secret sauce to making it in the big league.
I just want to start off by thanking you for taking out time to speak to the people. We wanted to give our readers the opportunity to hear your phenomenal Trenton story.
I really do appreciate it. Trenton is a big part of who I am, what I do and where I came from. To me, it’s a blessing to be able to give back to the community and to those people who are out there trying to grow themselves and become somewhat positive [and] someone great for the community.
The Boston Red Sox is such a storied team. What was going through your mind when you first signed with them?
Well, in this situation, it was a little bit different because I signed with the Red Sox as a free agent. And you know, it’s a little bit different when that’s not your first team. So my first team that I started with was the Cincinnati Reds, and that was back in 2013. And then I was with the Cincinnati Reds for a process of eight years and then I signed with the Chicago Cubs last year. So I was working with the Chicago Cubs for one year, and that’s the team that I made my major league debut with, because with the Reds, I was in the minor leagues for eight years. And then this year, I started with the Red Sox. So like I said, it’s a blessing. There’s not many people who get to do what I’ve done and be where I am.
You started playing baseball professionally at 17. What do you contribute to your career success and longevity?
Hard work and discipline. I take a lot of pride in becoming a sponge and just learning my environment, learning the ins and outs, and becoming obsessed with the learning [process]. I’ve had a lot of great people in my life who have motivated me, who have taught me, who have told me things that I need to hear. I have great people in my circle who are there for me; I benefit from that. So, I always say, my success has a lot to do with the people that I’m around and I just feel like I’m very blessed and I’m very lucky to have those people.
Now, if you weren’t a baseball player, what else would you be doing?
I’ll be really honest with you here. I feel like I could be good at anything if I wasn’t a baseball player. It’s just the type of person that I am. I fall in love with something and I can conquer it. My work ethic speaks for itself. The attention to detail, the way that I go about my business, the way that I surround myself with the right people in the right environment. I adapt very quickly and I overcome it. So for me, if I wasn’t playing baseball, I would be successful at something else.
I was not ready for that answer, but I love it. Crook for President! Okay, so how did your Red Sox teammates and the Red Sox fans receive you when you first signed and started playing with the team?
They’ve been great. The fans are the first ones to react because I started with the Red Sox in the offseason [and] didn’t get a chance to be around my teammates. I was basically a part of the Red Sox organization for a couple of months before I even joined the team in Fort Myers, Florida where we are now for spring training. [The] Red Sox is a huge franchise! It’s a family environment. It’s kind of hard to believe sometimes because a lot of places you go they always say, ‘this is a family environment,’ but when I got here and I got to be with the team and experience who the Boston Red Sox organization really is, it truly feels like a family.
I want to mix things up a bit. We’re foodies here at the Trenton Journal, so we want to know, when you come back to Trenton, where are your favorite places to eat?
Okay, so there’s a Mexican spot called Mariachis. I love that spot! There’s another spot called the Light House [located in Ewing, New Jersey], and it’s the best Jamaican restaurant. I’ll tell you, man, I love me some Jamaican [food]. I have traveled a lot in the last 10 years and I can never find a good Jamaican spot as good as that.
I’m headed over there as soon as I’m done with this interview.
Thank me later [laughs]!
What would you say is the best part of being a professional baseball player?
I’m sure different guys will tell you different things. For me, it’s for sure traveling and being able to experience different areas. A lot of people don’t ever leave their home state. Baseball has taken me places that I never thought I’d go. Last year, I played in the Dominican Republic. I [also] went to Mexico to play baseball, so definitely the travel. Another thing [baseball] allows me to do is inspire people. I love making this world a better place. I take pride in that.
You travel a lot and have lived in many different cities, where do you consider home?
You know it’s funny, I get that question all the time and the simple answer to that is that everywhere is kind of home. I was born in the Dominican Republic, my dad is there now. So I go see him all the time and I go play winter ball over there as well, so that’s home. Then, I’m in New Jersey whenever I’m not playing baseball. I’m playing baseball for about eight months out of the year, maybe nine sometimes, including winter ball and the regular season. So then I will be home for five seasons, you know, so hopefully this year my home will be Boston. Home is kind of everywhere, but to me home is where the heart is.
What was it like growing up in Trenton?
I moved from the Dominican Republic when I first [moved to Trenton]. I didn’t speak any English at all. There is a very high [Spanish-speaking] community in Trenton, which made it a little easier. I made a lot of friends and a lot of great memories. There’s some people that you can’t hang out with because you know that there’s not a future. I had to choose the right path so that I can have a successful career, which to me was very important.
What advice do you give to those out there who aspire to be a professional athlete?
I love that question! Hard work, dedication, focus, and discipline. It takes so much discipline, not just [to be] a professional athlete, but just to be a professional. My sisters are both nurses. We all should be dreaming big. The minute you stop dreaming [and] trying to accomplish your goals, you fall into the trap of becoming just like everyone else.