Both brothers have come a long way since playing ball in Okeechobee. Jonathon and Kutter were given a solid start playing sports. Parents Kristy and Neal Crawford met while playing in adult softball leagues. Kristy said, “We love the game, that’s how Neal and I met. There was a time when Jonathon was in his little walker in the dugout while I played women’s softball. We all were together, so they grew up at the softball field.”
Kristy, vice-president of loan review officer at SouthState Bank and Neal, a skilled carpenter, are proud of their sons’ accomplishments. The Crawfords did their best to make sure their sons had what they needed. “We taught them the basics of character and balance in their lives. Yes, they always wanted to be professionals, but we had the Plan B, and they both said they would finish college, and they did,” Kristy said. Neal’s drive was simple—to keep the boys busy and active. Baseball was great, but the character of their sons was more important. They were not pushy parents, but active parents. Kristy said, “Nothing came easy for either of them. Neal and I had to be sure to keep their confidence up.”
There have been many coaches guiding the brothers through the years, but without hesitation, both brothers say their parents’ coaching helped them the most.
Jonathon said, “They worked hard to give me this opportunity. It was their everyday work ethic that kept me grounded and that helped me to see everything through. They never pushed us to do something we didn’t want to do, which was nice. We were able to fall in love with the game on our own.”
Kutter said, “I’m super grateful for all the time and money they put into helping me get to where I’m at now. Growing up when I was younger, my mom was my coach, and as I got older my dad guided me, both just being open to saying yes when I asked. This said a lot about them, putting me and Jonathon before themselves and being wonderful parents.”
The admiration both brothers have for each other is obvious. “I couldn’t be prouder. Growing up in Little League he (Kutter) always played up a level in age group, always pushing himself and challenging himself. We’ve encouraged each other throughout the years,” Jonathon said.
Kutter’s respect is mutual. “Jonathon is persistent and dedicated to the game, even with all the injuries he’s gone through. (Baseball) was a dream of mine growing up, obviously, but when Jonathon got drafted the light bulb went off and I was like, okay, if he can do it, I can do it.”
Kids here in Okeechobee are inspired. One mother posted a picture on Facebook of her child pitching, stating her son asked, “Is my pitch like Kutter’s?” Jonathon and Kutter were happy to give advice for young players. “Have fun but you must work hard, once you move on and get to play with better players you need a good foundation and a good work ethic. Be coachable and listen to your coaches; be a sponge,” Jonathon said. Kutter said, “I think the big thing is just staying consistent in your work and never giving up. If you’re good enough, if you put in the work and developed your skills, professional level scouts don’t care where you came from. Have fun. Those dreams are in your heart for a reason.”
Okeechobee is proud of these two young men, and it is their upbringing in Okeechobee that keeps them grounded. Traveling, along with the cultural changes, have been exceptional experiences for them. However, they take Okeechobee with them wherever they go. Kutter said, “It’s humbling being from a small town and that’s my fuel.”
When both brothers get a chance to get together, naturally baseball comes up, but not 24/7. They like to spend the time fishing or playing golf. Family time in Okeechobee is important. During off season, Jonathon’s home is in Hobe Sound, FL where he recently announced his engagement to Julianna Bonarrigo, a real estate agent and model from Jupiter. Kutter spends his off time in Okeechobee.
The Crawfords are grateful to the family members, friends, and the community for their support throughout the years, especially to those who have followed Jonathon and Kutter and traveled to all their games. Through her tears, Kristy said, “We are all proud and humbled.