Making the Majors

SAN_0374 Spencer Sandstrom

 

SAN_0503                     S-CronPro

“It was pretty surreal,” former Utah first baseman C.J. Cron said, describing the moment when he was called up to the majors.

On May 3rd, Cron walked into the batter’s box at Angel Stadium and took his first major league at-bat for the Los Angeles Angels. Cron swung on the first pitch he saw, sending it through the middle for a run batted in-single. By the end of the night, Cron had collected three hits and two RBIs as Los Angeles won 5-3 — a promising start to what could be a promising career.

Before Cron could even dream of playing in the majors, his father, Chris, was still trying to achieve his big league aspirations. Chris Cron was still in the minors when his son was born in January of 1990. Twenty months later, on Aug. 15, 1991, the elder Cron made his major league debut. Though Chris Cron’s career was short-lived — he only managed two hits in 25 at-bats in two seasons — his son has seen the effect of his father playing at the highest level.

“It was definitely helpful,” Cron said. “I kind of knew the ropes of professional baseball and kind of how players go about their business and kind of what to expect before I even got in it. I think that helped a lot with my transition.”

Cron went to Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix, Ariz., where he broke records for the most doubles and RBIs and the fewest strikeouts in a season. After his well-decorated high school career, which included a 2007 Louisville Slugger Honorable Mention All-American, Cron was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 44th round. Cron didn’t settle for being the 1,320th pick in the draft, however, and decided to attend the U.

“I just really liked the place,” Cron said. “I liked the coaching staff, beautiful city. Once I visited, it was a pretty easy decision.”

Cron came in as a freshman and averaged a .337 batting average for the season, leading the Utes in hits, home runs and RBI’s. At the end of the season, Cron was crowned the Mountain West Conference freshman of the year and a Freshman All-American by Baseball America. In 2009, Cron got three hits in one game against San Diego State pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, something no other player in the country was able to do. Strasburg went on to be the first overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft and star for the Washington Nationals.

In his sophomore year, Cron had 49 fewer at-bats than his freshman year, but he managed to increase his home runs, RBI’s, runs scored and hits. With more hits in fewer at-bats, Cron’s batting average rose to .431. Cron’s great year got him All-American honors by multiple baseball sites, including the National College Baseball Writers of America and a Mountain West Conference Player of the Year.

After a similarly stellar junior year, Cron was named an All-American and again won Mountain West Conference Player of the year. Cron decided to forgo his senior season and enter the MLB Draft.

Cron was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with the 17th pick in the first round of the 2011 draft, becoming the only Ute to be selected in the first round.

“It was exciting, just knowing all the hard work I put in before college paid off and that I was able to represent the [U] in that manner,” Cron said. “It was definitely cool for me and cool for my family and my teammates.”

Since being called up in early May, Cron has proved his worth to the Angels, hitting .301 with eight home runs and 22 RBIs.

“At the end of the day, if you hit, you usually get to stay around,” said Angels assistant general manager Scott Servais. “That’s why he was drafted as high as he was, he has hit at every level. Unfortunately for us, he plays the same position as Albert Pujols, so you got to try and get both those bats in the lineup.”

More at-bats could be coming for the former Utah slugger. Cron had been battling veteran Raul Ibanez for the primary designated hitter spot ever since his debut. During a three-game series against the Texas Rangers from June 21-23, Cron homered in all three games, prompting the Angels to cut Ibanez, who was hitting below .200, and making Cron the DH.

“It’ll be nice to get more at-bats,” Cron said. “Raul was awesome to me, he taught me a lot, and I couldn’t thank him enough. I was definitely sad to see him go. I wish him nothing but the best.”

Cron has had a torrid start to his major league career and has been able to carve out a spot in the Angels everyday lineup.

“As long as C.J. keeps hitting, he will have a long career,” Servais said.

If his first big league weeks are any indication, expect Cron’s “surreal” experience to last a long time.

b.jasarevic@chronicle.utah.edu

@BenJasarevic