By Bridgette Waldau
Photography Courtesy of Four Seam Images, Boston Red Sox and the Crawford Family

It is summer, and in small towns everywhere, the sound of youth baseball is in the air. The ball fields are full of excited kids playing baseball as parents cheer them on. In Okeechobee, they are also gearing up for a summer of T-Ball and Little League baseball with hopes and dreams of many kids making it to the pros. When a player from a small town makes it as a professional, it is a big deal. When two brothers in a small town both achieve their dreams, it is exciting and very rare.

I am not a sportswriter, and this story is not about baseball stats or play-by-plays. Gritty details about professional baseball players can be found all over the Internet. This story is about two brothers, Jonathon and Kutter Crawford, their path to the pros, and how they have been an inspiration for Okeechobee.

Jonathan Crawford

Jonathon Crawford is a professional baseball pitcher for the High Point Rockers of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. He had previously been a player for the Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds organizations. Jonathon attended Okeechobee High School and then enrolled at the University of Florida, where he played college baseball for the Florida Gators. The highlight of his time there was when he threw a no-hitter against Bethune-Cookman in 2012. During that same summer, he played for the United States collegiate national team.

The Detroit Tigers drafted Jonathon in the first round of the 2013 Major League Baseball draft. “This was an exciting moment, getting drafted first round into the pros, and that was huge for me,” Jonathon said. He made his professional debut that season with the Connecticut Tigers. He has pitched for the West Michigan Whitecaps, Cincinnati Reds, AZL Reds, and Daytona Tortugas. Due to injuries, he was placed on the disabled list off and on for three years.

Jonathon signed with Team Texas of the Constellation Energy League (a makeshift independent league created because of the COVID-19 pandemic) in 2020. He went on to play with the Chicago/High Point of the American Association of Professional Baseball (2021) and is now with the High Point Rockers of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball for the 2022 season.

Colleen Queen and Abagail Queen

Kutter Crawford

Kutter Crawford, younger brother of Jonathon, also made it to the pros. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball (MLB) in the 16th round of the 2017 MLB draft. He made his MLB debut in 2021.

Kutter attended Okeechobee High School and Indian River State College, then played college baseball at Florida Gulf Coast University. He made his professional debut in 2017, with the Class A Lowell Spinners of the New York–Penn League, splitting time with the Class A Greenville Drive and Class A-Advanced Salem Red Sox. Kutter was promoted to the Portland Sea Dogs of Double-A. During this time, he underwent Tommy John arm ligament surgery and did not pitch professionally during 2020, due to cancellation of the minor-league season.

Kutter was later promoted to the Worcester Red Sox of Triple-A. Between Worcester and Portland, Kutter made 20 minor-league appearances and played in the Dominican Professional Baseball League during the off season. The Boston Red Sox added Kutter to their roster to start the 2022 season.

I asked Kutter what it felt like that first day pitching in one of the most iconic stadiums in history, Fenway Park, and he said, “It was all kind of a blur, but when you walk on that field and you look around, it’s different than any other stadium in the league because of the colors and the history there. I remember after I was done pitching, I looked around, I kind of took it all in and thought it doesn’t get any better. This is the best of the best right here, a long way from Okeechobee… a long way.”

When asked about his proudest moment, Kutter said, “For me it was probably making the opening day roster because I really felt like I earned a spot on the team.” And he did earn that spot. Okeechobee was watching as Kutter had his first win in the big leagues pitching at Yankee Stadium on Sunday Night Baseball where he struck out New York Yankees Anthony Rizzo and Aaron Judge. He ended up pitching two innings, giving up four hits, striking out three while not walking a single batter.

Colleen Queen and Abagail Queen
Colleen Queen and Abagail Queen
Colleen Queen and Abagail Queen

Okeechobee ROOTS

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.”

Community Support

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.

Colleen Queen and Abagail Queen
Colleen Queen and Abagail Queen
Colleen Queen and Abagail Queen
Colleen Queen and Abagail Queen
Colleen Queen and Abagail Queen