A father and son may bond over camping, fishing or fixing an old car in the garage. For Chris and Kevin Cron, their relationship is rooted on the diamond with the Reno Aces.
Aces manager Chris Cron has joined forces with his first baseman son in Triple-A Reno. The skipper has a front row view from the dugout of Kevin’s development into a big-league prospect with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“It’s a father’s dream,” Chris Cron said. “I’m not sure there are too many people in my situation and I’m very blessed he’s going toward the footsteps of playing this game. … Being able to watch your kid achieve his dream of making it to the big leagues is really special to me.”
The Aces first/third baseman is up to 21 homers and 60 RBIs at a .333 clip on the year. Cron leads the minor leagues in home runs and leads the Pacific Coast League in RBIs. His .860 slugging percentage and 1.254 OPS rank second in the PCL. Cron was named PCL Player of the Week for the period of May 13-May 19 after accumulating 10 hits, five homers and 14 RBIs over that span.
In his first full season with the Aces, Cron has picked up right where he left off. He led the team with 22 homers and 97 RBIs in 104 games with Reno last season. An oblique injury suffered in Double-A Jackson delayed his promotion to the Aces.
Cron’s offensive production caught some eyes from the big-league club. He was added to the Dbacks’ 40-man roster in the offseason and received an invitation to spring training before the start of the year.
A call-up to the desert would be a dream come true for both of them.
“Hopefully it will come someday when I bring (Kevin) into the office and call him up,” Chris Cron said. “Just tell him the situation at hand. It’s a dream of mine, too. I haven’t really thought of it yet, he’d be up there right now if it was up to me. … When that time comes, I’ll be looking forward to it.”
“It’s something you grow up dreaming about,” Kevin Cron, 26, said. “It’s something you put years and years into. Not just professional baseball, but playing up to this point and getting help along the way. … If it happens, I’ll be grateful.”
A right-handed batter, Cron is best suited for hitting fastballs high and inside the zone, where he uses his 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame to generate most of his power. His swing has a lot of moving parts, his right elbow sticks straight out to complement a low leg kick up to the numbers of his uniform. Once Cron sees a suitable pitch, his quick hands immediately make hard contact to lift the ball in the air – and out of the ballpark more times than none.
The slugger doesn’t aim for the fences at hitter-friendly Greater Nevada Field. Cron has settled for an opposite-field grounder down the first base line on multiple occasions.
“It gives me that flexibility,” he said. “Being able to drive the ball to all sides gives yourself an opportunity to be off and still give yourself a chance to make something happen.”
Cron has plenty of pop in his bat, but opposing pitchers are learning take away his strengths. The slugger has struggled against off-speed sliders that break away from the plate.
On Sunday, he golfed Jon Niese’s curveball breaking at his knees over the scoreboard in left field in the fourth inning. Cron didn’t see a single four-seam fastball in the at bat, but he adjusted and jumped on the off-speed pitch.
“He’s got a lot of power, I think we all know that at this point,” Chris Cron said. “He’s really talented offensively at getting the ball in the air, but (opposing) pitchers will get the scouting report on him and he’s gonna have to adjust.”
Defensively, Cron has stuck with first base over the hot corner this season. Cron has started 29 games at first base compared to 10 starts at third. On occasion, Cron will switch back to third against National League opponents when Yasmany Tomás is slotted in at first. Against American League teams, Cron goes back to first and Tomás is the designated hitter.
Dad knows best, and Cron seems like a natural fit at first base at the big-league level.
“I still think he’s an above-average first baseman. I think the organization feels that same way,” the manager said. “But the versatility of playing third base and adding that to his resume will be very valuable.”
The baseball genes are strong in the Cron bloodlines. Chris Cron played 12 years with the California Angeles and Chicago White Sox before a 19-year career– and counting– as a manager. C.J. Cron, older brother of Kevin, is a first baseman/designated hitter for Minnesota Twins entering his sixth season in the majors.
C.J. shares a similar physique to Kevin, standing a towering 6-foot-4 at 235 pounds. The brothers also share one similarity at the plate, plenty of power from the right side.
“I think we both make hard contact,” said Cron who leads the minor leagues with 21 home runs and 60 RBIs. “Being bigger guys, that’s the one thing going for us.”
In the midst of his managing career, Chris Cron never coached Kevin during his Tee-Ball days. But he always took the time to watch his growth as a player.
“When he was a Little Leaguer I was already managing,” he said. “But we’d always find time for some regular catch, and like any dad I would be coaching his games from the stands.”
Those same managing qualities helped Kevin mature both on and off the field.
“I’ve always seen him as a manager,” he said. “Growing up with him, he was a manager my whole life and taught me a lot about the game and me personally.”
With both of them donning an Aces jersey, father and son have time to recollect throughout a 140-game regular season. They’ve already developed a small, but subtle pregame ritual.
“On the field it’s all business,” Kevin Cron said. “But when we get in the dugout or off the field I might give dad some schlack from time to time. … Pregame, it varies at times. It’s either the casual hug or a small fist bump. … I’m dealing with it being a bit awkward around my teammates, but we’re not letting it get to us.”
Kevin Cron was named the Pacific Coast League’s Player of the Week for the period of May 13-19.
Cron, 26, went 10-for-23 (.435) last week with 14 RBIs, eight runs scored and five home runs. He posted a 1.778 OPS tallying 29 total bases and even recorded his first stolen base of the season on May 18. He reached base safely in every game during the time frame, recorded five walks, and had hits in five of the six games.
Along with his dad, Kevin received some crucial advice from a pair of former Reno Aces All- Stars. First baseman Christian Walker and outfielder Socrates Brito helped Cron take the next step in his development.
Cron surpassed Walker – who is the starting first baseman for the Dbacks this season – for the most RBIs in franchise history before June 1.
“Having guys like (Christian) Walker and Socrates Brito last year was an ongoing conversation,” he said. “I was always trying to find ways to pick their minds and opening myself up to learning and making myself open to new ideas.”
They may share their last name, but Kevin Cron is the name to remember in the Biggest Little City. Walker’s hot bat will make it tough for Cron to fit into Arizona’s infield, but the Dbacks may be forced to fit Cron’s bat in the lineup in the near future.
“I don’t think he’s tapped into his full potential yet,” Aces outfielder Tim Locastro said. “The sky’s the limit for that kid.”
Tacoma tops Reno with eight-run fifth inning
Kevin Cron went 1-for-4 with a 435-foot home run in a 18-9 loss to the Tacoma Rainiers on Sunday. Tacoma’s eight-run fifth inning was more than enough to take the fourth game of the five-game series. The loss snapped back-to-back wins for Reno.
The Aces had nine hits in the loss, four were home runs. Third baseman Wyatt Mathisen went 3-for-4 with a double, two home runs and five RBIs. Of his five round-trippers this season, four have come during the nine-game home stand.
Mathisen went from the hot corner to the mound by the ninth inning, giving up three earned runs in the frame. He sported a 1.06 ERA and 11 wins during his senior season at Calallen High School located in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Juniel Querecuto launched his third home run to center in the third inning. Querecuto didn’t know he hit a homer and slid into third base before touching home plate. He was greeted with plenty of smiles and high fives in the dugout.
Abraham Almonte finished 2-for-4 with an RBI. Tyler Heineman added an RBI single.
Reno surrendered 22 hits. Alex Young recorded his first loss of the season. The southpaw pitched four innings, giving up five earned runs on five hits and two walks. Each pitcher out of the Aces’ bullpen recorded at least two earned runs.
The Aces scored runs in the third and fourth. Tacoma responded with a run in the fourth and eight runs in the fifth. Reno plated another run in the fifth and two more in the seventh. The Rainiers combined for another eight runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth.
A four-run ninth inning was too little too late for the Aces.
Notes: The Aces surpassed a paid attendance of 4 million since Greater Nevada Field opened its gates on April 17, 2009. Reno has had 340,000 fans in each season, including a franchise record 466,606 in 2009. … The Aces are 9-13 when scoring first this season. They are 2-5 on Sundays.
On Deck: Reno, 16-27, faces Tacoma on Monday for the final game of the five-game series at 11:05 a.m. Right-hander Taylor Clarke is expected to take the hill for the Aces. Tacoma has yet to announce their starting pitcher.