Kevin Cron learned how to hit again. By failing at it.
The game of baseball always came easily to Cron. Pine tar and rosin might flow through his veins.
His father, Chris Cron, is a manager for the Double-A Erie Sea Wolves, an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. Brother, C.J., was drafted No. 17 by the Los Angeles Angels in 2011.
Naturally, Cron is also an exceptional baseball player. Struggle was never a word he was familiar with.
He graduated from Mountain Pointe and became a pitcher’s worst nightmare. In 2011, his senior year, Cron hit 27 long balls, setting an Arizona high school record. He also holds the high school record for career home runs, hitting 60 in his four years.
“I’ve always been able to hit,” Cron said. “I never really struggled like I did my sophomore year (at TCU).”
Looking at his first year with the Horned Frogs, there really wasn’t any indication that he would struggle his sophomore year. The first baseman hit .338 with 6 HRs, 34 RBI and a .503 slugging percentage as a freshman to help the Horned Frogs make a decent postseason run.
As the 2012-2013 season rolled in, the 2012 all-Mountain West team member was primed for another solid year, but the season didn’t pan out the way he thought it would.
Cron’s average dropped to .208. He hit only two homers, had 14 less RBIs and saw his slugging percentage plummet to .227.
The team went the way Cron did. After going 40-22 in 2011-1012, TCU skidded to a 29-18 record, dropping three of its final four games.
“This season we had a rough year as a team and individually, and it was one of those things where I just wanted to go out, get back to having fun, playing the game, get some confidence back,” Cron said.
“When you struggle as an individual and you struggle as a team, you lose some of that passion. You’re so frustrated with how things have gone and you feel like you’re letting people down.”
What Cron needed was a change of scenery, a place to get away and rediscover his passion for the game.
So he went to the Cape Cod League, a summer league for college baseball players that helps them bridge the gap between college and the pros.
“It’s a typical thing for colleges to send kids out and play collegiate (summer) league,” Cron said. “It’s just a time for players to go out and get better and have fun and make sure they’re still working so that they’re not just sitting around all summer.”
His time in the league is going drastically different from his sophomore year in Fort Worth, Texas.
Through 23 games in the Cape Cod Baseball League, Cron is sixth in the league in batting average (.352), fourth in HRs (4) and second in RBI (21) while playing for the Falmouth Commodores and looks to be in-line to be named to the league’s All-Star Game, which is July 27 and will be broadcast by Fox’s College Sports station.
Part of his success comes from physical changes. He’s raised his hands and adjusted his footing. His stance is more compact. But the biggest change has nothing to do with how he holds himself in the batter’s box.
It had to do with how he held himself in his own head.
“I’ve never had to fight those confidence battles or fight the battles of not feeling sorry for yourself. I fell into that category a little bit this year,” Cron said. “Things were going wrong and I didn’t know how to handle it so I was feeling sorry for myself, letting it get the best of me.
“I was working hard, but I was always just looking for a solution rather than going about it the right way and trying to work out of it. I almost overworked myself harder into more of a slump.”
As Cron put it, he matured. Through his failures, he learned once again how to succeed.
“Baseball is a game of failure and I hadn’t really experienced it in my life and although I wouldn’t want to do it again, I feel like I’ve matured a lot as a player,” Cron said. “Now that I know the feeling, I’ll work that much harder to make sure that kind of season never happens again.”
• Eric Smith is a junior journalism major at Arizona State University. He is a summer intern at the AFN.