Crean called Brewers general manager Doug Melvin in the days before baseball's First-Year Player Draft in support of Indiana right-hander Eric Arnett, who dabbled with Crean and the basketball team but really impressed with a solid baseball season in his junior year.
The sell certainly didn't hurt. The Brewers spent their first pick in the Draft on Arnett, a 6-foot-6 power arm who went 26th overall on Day 1 of the three-day event. The Brewers owned six of the first 105 picks in their first Draft under amateur scouting director Bruce Seid and showed a preference for power, both on the mound and at the plate.
Arnett went first, and Crean helped make it happen.
"He's been awesome, calling people. I'm using him as a reference," Arnett said.
Crean was a regular at Miller Park during his 10-year tenure at Marquette, where he rebuilt the program into a national power. He's trying to do the same at an Indiana program short on top players.
So short that Arnett walked on and would have had a spot on the team if not for a scholarship technicality. Instead, he suited up as a practice player and traveled with the team throughout the season. He made a mark on Crean.
"You know how Tom is. He gets pretty excited," Melvin said. "He said this is a great young individual who is very competitive on the basketball court and would be competitive on the baseball field, too. He grasps coaching and teaching, and that's important in our game because there is a lot of teaching, especially with pitching.
"He's a recruiter, and Tom has always recruited good-makeup players and players who compete very well. You see the success he's had, and his job is very similar to what ours is. You want the best player available, someone who will listen and be coachable. It had a lot of merit to have Tom pick up the phone and call."
Arnett became the first collegiate pitcher selected by the Brewers in the first round since Ben Sheets in 1999. He jumped to first-round consideration during his just-completed junior season at Indiana, where Arnett was named the Big Ten co-Pitcher of the Year after going 12-2 with a 2.50 ERA and six complete games.
"This kid just blossomed this year," Seid said. "We didn't even know if he would get to us [at No. 26]."
Arnett, 21, throws a 93-95 mph fastball that can reach 97 mph, plus a hard slider, a changeup and a split-fingered fastball. Like many younger players, he's still working on his off-speed arsenal.
But he threw consistently hard more often this season, one reason Arnett improved upon his 6.11 ERA as a freshman and 5.45 mark as a sophomore. He credits a new weight program he picked up from the basketball team.
"I always had an arm that was pretty strong and [the velocity] was there every now and then," Arnett said. "This year it was consistent."
Arnett was among the Draft prospects at Miller Park for a workout on Saturday, a group that included two other players who went to Milwaukee on Day 1 (second-rounder Max Walla and third rounder Josh Prince were the others). Arnett knew Milwaukee was interested, but Tuesday night still managed to test his nerves.
"My stomach was getting pretty nervous as the picks went on," said Arnett, who watched with friends and family at a restaurant in his hometown of Pataskala, Ohio. "When I heard my name, it was probably one of the most incredible feelings I had in my life."
Arnett was a three-sport athlete in high school and won 10 varsity letters in baseball, basketball and football. He played wide receiver and safety in football and forward in basketball.
Asked to compare his game to current big leaguers, Arnett named a pair of relievers. In terms of size, he compares to Philadelphia's Ryan Madson. He believes his stuff is in the mold of Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon.
"I compare to him with his mentality and everything," Arnett said. "I don't know if I have that look that he does. I don't know. I have a pretty good slider and hopefully I can work on the changeup a little more to perfect that and improve my split."
At No. 26, the Brewers matched their latest first-round selection in the club's history. In 1993, they took left-hander Kelly Wunsch with the 26th pick, and while he pitched 258 games over six Major League seasons, none of them were with the Brewers. In 1983, the Brewers spent the 26th pick in the Draft on another lefty, Dan Plesac, who eventually became Milwaukee's closer and made three All-Star teams.
Seid and Mike Farrell, the Brewers area scout responsible for Indiana, have until Aug. 17 to sign Arnett. No one expects the process to take too long.
"I'm looking to sign as soon as possible, just to be able to work my way up to the Majors as fast as possible," Arnett said.
He thinks the Brewers could make an offer within the next 10 days.
"I'm a fairly signable guy," Arnett said. "I don't think it should take too long."
A look at Milwaukee's other Day 1 selections:
Compensation Round A -- Kentrail Davis, OF, University of Tennessee:
Short by professional baseball standards (5-foot-9) and stout (200 pounds), Davis burst onto the scene last year as a freshman, when he led Tennessee with a .330 batting average, 68 hits, 13 home runs, 44 RBIs and a .435 on-base percentage. He got a bit pull-happy this year but still batted .308 with nine homers and 30 RBIs. Davis played center field for the Vols, but scouts cite his average throwing arm as one reason his future home could be in left. He is a left-handed hitter and a right-handed thrower, and was Draft-eligible as a sophomore because he turns 21 later this month.
Compensation Round A -- Kyle Heckathorn, RHP, Kennesaw State University:
It came as no surprise to see the Brewers jump on the 6-foot-6, 240 pounder, who, like Arnett, is a hard-thrower coming off his junior season in college. Club officials were not shy in the weeks leading up to the Draft in saying they were high on Heckathorn, who can reach 99 mph with his fastball but sits more comfortably in the 94-97 mph range and also features a hard slider. He was 4-1 with a 3.44 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 86 1/3 innings this season, including a 15-strikeout game. Like Davis, he turns 21 later this month. The Brewers will introduce him to their Minor League chain as a starter.
Round 2 -- Max Walla, OF, Albuquerque (N.M.) Academy:
Described in his MLB.com scouting report as an offense-first, defense-second hitter, Walla should fit right into an organization that has found homes for similarly-described players over the past 5-7 years. He's a 5-foot-11 left-handed hitter and thrower described as a "Brian Giles type" who fits in an outfield corner. Seid said he had the arm to play right field.
"He caught my eye from way down the left-field line with his swing and his power," said Melvin, referring to Walla's showing at the Miller Park workout on Saturday.
Round 2 -- Cameron Garfield, C, Murrieta Valley (Calif.) High School:
After selecting collegiate players with their first three picks, the Brewers went with a pair of high schoolers in consecutive selections in the second round. Garfield, a right-handed hitter, has decent offensive skills and a plus throwing arm, but was limited to designated-hitter duties for much of his senior season because of an ankle injury. He played for a Brewers Area Code team, so they have known Garfield for some time.
Round 3 -- Josh Prince, SS, Tulane University:
Another college junior, Prince is a quality defender and runner who ranked among the nation's collegiate leaders with 43 stolen bases during Tulane's regular season. He led the Green Wave with a .342 batting average on the strength of 23 extra-base hits, including six home runs. Like Walla, Prince bolstered his case with a strong showing at Miller Park.
"He was a guy that we really liked, but he separated himself," Seid said. "This kid was in a setting with guys who threw 94, 95, 96 [mph] and he handled that setting like a professional."