When the Angels signed former National League MVP Albert Pujols before last season the fan base went berserk.
It led to a 47 percent increase in spring training attendance from 2011 to 2012 at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
After a disappointing regular season, the Angels were at it again. Management went out and signed former AL MVP Josh Hamilton from rival Texas and the fan base is expected to respond once again.
It means the closest spring training ballpark to Ahwatukee just might be the second hottest ticket behind the Diamondbacks in all of the Cactus League.
“We feel we’re making progress and the organization is growing in the right way,” said Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, who also upgraded the pitching staff by trading for Tommy Hanson (Atlanta) and Jason Vargas (Seattle). “I’m excited to see how it all turns out.”
Throw in reigning Rookie of the Year and AL MVP runner-up Mike Trout and the Angels will be a major draw once again. Walking up to Tempe Diablo at 12:55 p.m. on a weekend won’t be a promising option for Ahwatukee spring training fans.
Advance ticket sales will be the safe way to go and who knows, you just might get a shot at seeing a local product in Mountain Pointe graduate CJ Cron, the Angels 2011 first-round pick.
Cron, 23, has had a conflicting career thus far.
When the Utah product is on the field, he is as productive as a first-round pick is expected to be. The only sticking point is both of his pro seasons have been cut short by surgery.
He enters this spring coming off an Aug. 29 shoulder labrum surgery, an injury the Angels knew about when they drafted him. He played through at the end of his college career and at the start of his pro career.
Cron, who had his first year ended by knee surgery, was named the California League’s rookie of the year after tying the Inland Empire franchise record with 123 RBIs.
Overall in 129 games, Cron hit .293 with 73 runs, 27 home runs to go along with the record RBIs.
The best place to find Cron will be on some of the backfields at the Tempe complex as the organization plans to bring him along slowly.
“There’s no rush on Cron,” said assistant general manager Scott Servais before spring training started on Monday for the major leaguers.
Cron, who plays first base with a background at catcher, is projected to make the majors by MLB.com and Baseball America in 2014.
The recovery from surgery might keep Cron back at Inland Empire to start the season with Double-A Arkansas being the next level up.
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