The athletic tape was just for show, but Kevin Cron figured any illusion was better than none.
Two months before the end of his junior season last year, Mountain Pointe's record-setting catcher rolled his ankle.
As the pain intensified, Cron knew the injury was more than a sprain. But with the Pride in contention for a possible state title, he risked a burgeoning baseball future to finish out the season.
Cron's mother, Linda, repeatedly asked him to see a doctor, but he refused.
"I said, ‘I'm not going because he's just going to tell me not to play until we figure out what's wrong,' " Cron said. "I'd go get treatment on it before school. I'd come back and wear tape - obviously it didn't do anything because the bone was broken - but it was more of a mental thing."
Cron had suffered a stress fracture in his foot, but still helped Mountain Pointe reach the 5A Division I state championship game against Desert Ridge. The Pride lost 11-4, but not before Cron hit his 22nd home run of the season, tying former Desert Vista star Corey Myers for Arizona's single-season record.
"The pitch before that, he hits a home run but it's just foul," Mountain Pointe coach Brandon Buck said. "And then the very next pitch he hits it out to left center. It was awesome."
Cron calls it the most memorable home run of his high school career. He said he still gets shivers thinking about it, and for a few brief moments he even forgot about the searing pain in his foot as he hobbled around the diamond.
"I ran around the bases fine," Cron said. "But once I got back in the dugout, whew, it was painful."
The next day he did see a doctor, and not surprisingly, surgery and a five-month rehabilitation was the end result.
"You don't know what the future holds when you make that decision," said Kevin's father, Chris, of letting his son play through the injury. "All we knew was that he wasn't going to stop playing. Sometimes as a father you're very proud of what a kid endures. You always want him to be tough. He sure as heck showed that and made us extremely proud."
It was a risky decision for Cron. He was already committed to Texas Christian for college, but with only a year left before the Major League Draft, he missed a chance to show off his skills on summer ball teams and at showcases.
Instead, he lounged for months, watching lots of baseball and movies. He gained 15 pounds while he recuperated.
"I was just sitting on the couch doing nothing," Cron said.
Once he could work out again, he dropped the 15 extra pounds - plus another 10 - as the layoff made his commitment to baseball even stronger.
Despite the summer of inactivity, Cron already grabbed the attention of scouts, and he estimated more than 30 were on hand for the team's season opener this year against Chaparral.
He is fully healthy now, as evidenced by his continued assault on the state's home run records.
After tying the single-season mark of 22 last year, he was 12 away from breaking the career record for home runs entering his senior season.
Cron tied the record and broke it on consecutive pitches on March 25 against Westwood, as his 45th career home run passed Tony Espinoza of Eloy Santa Cruz, who hit 44 from 2001-04. With plenty of games remaining in the season, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound lumberjack will likely put some distance between himself and Espinoza before the season concludes.
Despite Cron's prodigious power, he never purposely tries for home runs.
"He doesn't have to try," Buck said. "He's a freak. He has ‘it.' You hear coaches say ‘it' all the time. Well, whatever that is, he's got it."
Chris Cron is a minor league manager for the Erie Sea Wolves, the Double-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. He is a former major leaguer and has been involved in professional baseball all of Kevin's life.
During summers, Kevin and his older brother, C.J., would hang with Dad as he coached at various levels.
"Five, 8, 10, 7, whatever age they were, they were in the dugout hanging out with me," Chris Cron said. "You have to act a certain way in that dugout. You couldn't act like a kid. They lived a life not many kids get to do."
In addition to his natural talent and solid bloodlines - Cron's cousin, Chad Moeller, is a 10-year MLB veteran and former Diamondbacks catcher - Cron dissected the game at an early age.
"He benefitted through osmosis," Chris Cron said. "I couldn't tell him every little thing that happens, but he would watch and learn."
Cron may be in the minor leagues with his father soon if the right offer comes along after he is selected in the draft.
His stock seems on the rise after his record-breaking home run performances, and it doesn't hurt that C.J. was the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year last season for Utah.
After being around the game for so long, Kevin also realizes the business side of it. He knows he can't control what scouts think of him, so he continues to focus on the high school season and winning a state championship.
"If they want me, they'll come out and see me," Cron said. "I don't have to worry about it too much."
Despite a boring summer, Cron has no regrets about the decision to play with a broken bone in his foot.
Although the potential long-term implications were real, Cron said he never felt like it was something he wouldn't be able to come back from.
"I was somewhat lucky in that aspect, but I would do it again in a heartbeat," he said.
Although the injury concern is behind him, Cron is in a similar position to last year on the diamond. Mountain Pointe is one of five or six contenders for the 5A Division I baseball championship, and he will undoubtedly play a big role in the team's fortune. Not only is Cron the team's biggest bat, but also the top pitcher.
The draft awaits in June, and either pro ball or college after that.
For the next two months, though, he is still a high schooler. Last season, Cron showed how much he was willing to sacrifice for a title. After ending up one win short, he couldn't think of a better way to cap his prep career.
"However it goes, whether I get drafted and sign or go to TCU, this is my last year with some of the best friends I've had in high school," Cron said. "I've played with some of them since Little League, and this is the last year I'll be with them. There's nothing I want more then to share an experience like that with them, something we could share for a lifetime."
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