Baseball was always the bond J.J. Crumbley shared with his father, John, and it's one he always has cherished. That's why it was so special for J.J. to have the opportunity to forge that bond again during his final amateur season.
J.J., a former Jesuit High standout, completed his senior season as a right-handed reliever at Florida Gulf Coast with his father again in the dugout by his side. John, a former Jesuit coach, took a semester leave of absence from his duties as Jesuit's athletic director to serve as a volunteer assistant with the Florida Gulf Coast program.
"It," J.J. said, "was unforgettable."
Florida Gulf Coast went 38-15 and won the Atlantic Sun regular-season title in its first season in the league, missing the postseason only due to NCAA rules that prevent transitioning Division I programs from participating. J.J., meanwhile, earned first-team All-Atlantic Sun honors as a reliever after going 6-2 with five saves and a 1.50 ERA in 24 appearances. He finished as the program's career leader in appearances (86) and saves (14).
"It was definitely special," J.J. said. "It was a great way to go out."
It was also a great way to see his father get back in.
John admitted this season brought to the surface the coaching itch that never really left him when he stepped down as Jesuit's coach in 2006 after 22 seasons. John, who amassed 575 victories and three state championships at Jesuit, said he's planning a return to coaching "when the timing is right."
"I'm a teacher and a baseball coach," John said. "That's what this year proved to me."
It was something J.J. was glad to see again.
"He's always had the itch, but you definitely could he tell he was a little more juiced, a little more excited to actually be inside the lines again," J.J. said. "This time around he was more of the good cop than the bad cop. Being an assistant coach, he didn't have to be the head boss and bring down the law all the time. But he still brought that intensity and that fire he had at Jesuit."
Now that his collegiate career is complete, J.J. understands his playing days could be over. Major League Baseball's amateur draft is looming Thursday and Friday, but J.J. won't know if a professional playing career is in the cards until then.
"I'll cross that bridge when it comes, if it comes. And if it does, it's something I will consider and consider very heavily," he said. "I haven't really given it much thought because I do have a pretty good backup plan."
That plan includes a two-year internship as a graduate assistant in Florida Gulf Coast's sports information department, a job that will pay for his tuition as he works toward a master's degree in business administration. J.J. is finishing up his undergraduate degree in business administration this summer.
In essence, J.J. is prepared to move on - not entirely away from the game, but to a next and, at present, undetermined stage. But one thing J.J. does know is he's moving on with a lifetime full of memories from a special bond he shared with his father.
"We've shared something since I've been playing ball, over the last 12 to 15 years, that not a lot of fathers and sons get to partake in," J.J said. "I don't think it could have turned out any better."