AKRON -- As he sat in the dugout for the Bowie (Md.) Baysox game July 16 at Canal Park in Akron, Eric Crozier shared an occasional high-five but otherwise didn't talk much to his teammates.

AKRON -- As he sat in the dugout for the Bowie (Md.) Baysox game July 16 at Canal Park in Akron, Eric Crozier shared an occasional high-five but otherwise didn't talk much to his teammates.

The quiet, confident demeanor of a 30-year-old who finally is comfortable with who he is, though, was evident.

Back in Double-A and in his former home ballpark after playing for the Aeros in the Cleveland Indians' system in 2002 and '03, the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder who is the tallest position player on the Baysox hopes he finally has found his niche.

The 1996 Independence graduate and former Bexley American Legion Post 430 player, who briefly made it to the Major Leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2004, is concentrating on what he believes he does best.

"I went back to just being myself," Crozier said. "It's been a great, great group of guys in the locker room, and they've got a great manager. We're just trying to mesh personalities and have a winning team."

Crozier was signed by the Baltimore Orioles on June 19. He was assigned to play for a Bowie team which was 51-40 and five games behind the first-place Aeros in the Eastern League-Southern Division before it returned from the all-star break to begin a four-game series July 16 in Akron.

Crozier went 2-for-5 with a run scored to help the Baysox beat Akron 13-11.

Since playing for Akron, he has been a member of nine teams. The Orioles are his sixth Major League Baseball organization, and he had spent much of the past four seasons playing in the eight-team Atlantic League, an independent league of teams mostly from the East Coast.

The Orioles "discovered" the value of having Crozier in their system earlier this summer after he got off to a hot start while playing for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.

In 175 at-bats, he had eight home runs, 24 RBI and a .314 average to earn a spot in the Atlantic League all-star game June 23.

Crozier did not play in the game because of his purchase by the Orioles, but former major leaguers such as Armando Benitez, Jeremy Owens and Estaban Yan did.

"It's a good feeling seeing familiar faces," Crozier said of being back in Akron. "I hate the fact that (the Indians) had me for four years because they kind of know my every move, but it's been nice being back."

A 41st-round draft choice by the Indians in 2000 after playing at Norfolk (Va.) State, Crozier's status as a long-term project helped him stay afloat while he struggled through his first two years in the minors.

In 2002 while splitting time in the outfield and at first base for Kinston in advanced-A ball, Crozier broke through with nine home runs, 55 RBI and a .326 average in 72 games to earn a promotion to Akron.

The Indians, in hopes of creating more power-hitting prospects, asked Crozier to focus more on driving the ball and in 2003 he responded with 19 home runs and 52 RBI while hitting.245 for Akron.

He hit another 20 home runs and had 53 RBI in 84 games in his first stint in Triple-A with Buffalo in 2004 but was traded to the Blue Jays in July.

Crozier got called up to the majors for the first time that August but hit only .150 in 14 games. He had five hits -- including two home runs -- in 33 at-bats.

Then in spring training in 2005, the combination of the acquisition of first-baseman Shea Hillenbrand and Crozier's strained left hamstring limited his ability to get out on the field.

He didn't make the Blue Jays and hit just .226 in 37 games for Triple-A Syracuse. In May 2005, Crozier was waived for the first time.

The New York Yankees picked him up but released him two months later after he hit just .174 in 34 games with Double-A Trenton.

"The Jays put me on waivers, and that's when the Yankees claimed me," Crozier said. "But I just didn't play good baseball, and I didn't handle it well. Being injured and sent to Double-A, I didn't handle it well. I didn't refocus after getting sent back down to a level that I had done well at before."

He opened 2006 with the Cincinnati Reds organization but got released just before the amateur draft that June.

Hoping to revive his career, Crozier signed with the independent Lancaster (Pa.) Barnstormers and had seven home runs and a .291 average in 67 games while helping the team win the Atlantic League.

He signed with Boston in December 2006 and opened 2007 with the Red Sox's Double-A team in Portland but was released after hitting.236 in 63 games.

Crozier finished the year with Lancaster before hooking up with Southern Maryland in 2008.

He hit .265 with 13 home runs and 56 RBI in 418 at-bats with the Blue Crabs last year.

Southern Maryland is managed by Butch Hobson, a former major leaguer with the Red Sox and a former Columbus Clippers player from 1982-85.

"When you're a free agent and your numbers aren't as good as you feel they should be, it's hard," Crozier said. "All of the organizations have guys who they like, and those guys are going to play. That's the business side of the whole thing.

"With the way coach Hobson ran the team, it made you feel like you were still affiliated with the major leagues. It's tough because you have to love baseball to go to the Atlantic League since it's technically not really even the minor leagues."

Also making the trip to Akron for the four-game series last week were some of Crozier's biggest fans.

While Crozier was with Buffalo in 2004, Sue Marsha and her daughter, Courtney, made a concerted effort to get to know the players on their hometown team.

While Southern Maryland was too far for the Marshas to travel to see Crozier play after he left the Indians' organization, they didn't hesitate to drive three hours for the first two games of the Akron series last week.

"We do try to go see him play," Sue Marsha said. "When Eric was with Buffalo, (Courtney) took a lot of pictures of the players and when the players would come down to sign autographs, we got to know some of them. We have a couple of Amish girlfriends from (Northeast Ohio) who have been following him since he was in Mahoning Valley (in 2000) who are coming to the games (last Saturday and last Sunday). He approached us when he saw us with the pictures, and that makes you feel special. (Courtney) has a picture of him when he was playing beside (current Cincinnati Reds second baseman) Brandon Phillips.

"Eric's just a great person. He's so likeable and very reserved. He's really hung in there. There's no quit in him."

Through 25 games with Bowie, Crozier was hitting .256 with four home runs and 15 RBI.

Crozier has been playing nearly every day and usually hits third or fourth in the lineup. As a veteran of the minors who has had little success at the higher levels of pro baseball, he knows every day is important.

"He's a professional," Bowie manager Brad Komminsk said. "I coached him in Akron and he's the same guy. He's probably gotten better as a player. He's always been a quality player. He takes care of business and works hard."

Crozier, who has a 4-year-old son, Christian, who lives in Columbus, has used players such as Chris Coste and Russell Branyan as inspiration in keeping his dream of returning to the majors alive.

The 34-year-old Branyan had 22 home runs and was hitting a career-best .279 through 80 games with the Seattle Mariners after spending time with eight other organizations.

Coste, who is a backup catcher with the Houston Astros, finally got his first shot at the big leagues as a 33-year-old rookie in 2006.

"Just having that taste of the major leagues, it makes you want to get back," Crozier said. "You just have to keep trying until you're exhausted. For me it's going to take consistency. At times, I've struggled with just being consistent and not letting the bad times linger. When the Indians mentioned to me that they wanted me to be more of a power hitter, mentally I took that the wrong way. I want to get back to being more on an even keel.

"You look at somebody like Russell Branyan. Maybe there's something that I've picked up over the last couple years that I can use to make me a better player. One of the things I love about baseball is that you just never know what can happen."