Every summer C.J. and Kevin Cron take a trip to see their father, Chris, at whatever minor league stop he is at that season.
Back when they were little guys, before most games the two stood in the outfield of a minor league baseball stadium pushing each other. Not physically as brothers so close in age are known to do, but athletically to try and catch the most fly balls during batting practice.
They made a competition out of shagging balls during BP and whoever caught the most was declared the winner that day.
“We were little kids and those balls went so dang high,” said C.J., who is coming off three great years at Utah. “We were always seeing who would do better.”
Their brotherly rivalry has remained over the years, but come Monday the competition has a little more at stake.
They’ll be together on Monday for a draft party at Bar Fitness, located at 4425 E. Agave Rd. in Ahwatukee Foothills, that the community is invited to when the first round is aired on television (ESPN, MLB Network) at 4 p.m.
The second through 30th round is held Tuesday and it finishes up Wednesday with the 31st through 50th rounds.
There is a chance that both could be selected in the 2011 MLB first-year player draft’s first round on Monday, pulling off a rare feat that has happened only once before when J.D. and Tim Drew shared a glorious day in 1997.
“We’ll see who wins the competition that day,” said Kevin, who finished up four spectacular years at Mountain Pointe. “We have been kidding about it, but really no matter where we end up we are both blessed to be in this position.”
The Crons have had an insight to the professional game following their father to each of his stops with the Colorado Rockies, Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tiger organizations.
Chris, who was drafted in the second round (1984) himself and played in 12 major league games, is the Double-A manager for the Erie SeaWolves, which is an affiliate of the Tigers, this season.
He knows that his day job has given his boys an insight that is rare to come by and it has had invaluable influence into why both developed into potential first-round prospects.
“I don’t think there’s anything higher on the list,” Chris Cron told MLB.com about what put the boys in the position to be drafted. “It’s just what we do. They were fortunate to have a father who was in professional baseball. They hung out with dad while he worked. They fell into a love affair with the game their old man (fell in love with). It’s been a perfect fit.
“It doesn’t happen anymore. Players don’t sit around and talk about the game the way they used to when I was in the minor leagues. We would sit around and learn the game from older guys. Those are the types of things my kids got early. They learned through osmosis.”
C.J. is receiving the most attention in mock drafts and is rated as the 26th best prospect by Baseball America. Unless something completely unexpected happens he will turn professional, while Kevin has been placed mostly in the sandwich pick round (anywhere between 34th and 60th overall) or later and has the option of starting his career at Texas Christian University if he chooses not go professional.
Wherever their baseball skills take them next, expect them to hit.
C.J., who was picked in the 44th round by the White Sox out of Mountain Pointe in 2008, has played first base this season, but the family tradition, including Chris’ cousin, Chad Moeller, is to play catcher.
As a sophomore, Cron hit .431 with 20 homers, 81 RBIs and had a .817 slugging percentage to be named All-American. He followed it up by hitting .434 with 15 home runs and 59 RBIs this season.
“I made a hitting adjustment (lessened a leg kick and lowered his hands) my sophomore year and I really took off,” C.J. said. “It really allowed me to see the ball better and take a better path to the ball.
“I matured into my body and I am not as soft. (The scouts) see my power as my biggest asset and they like that I hit the ball to all fields and my baseball instincts.”
Kevin, who is ranked as the 133rd best prospect by Baseball America, has a similar makeup that led to him ending his career as the state’s all-time career (59) and season (27) home run leader.
As a senior he batted .560 with a 1.404 slugging percentage as he drove in 65 runs and went 8-1 on the mound including a complete-game victory in the state title game.
He played catcher, but teams might feel the need to move him to first base because of his size at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds. Baseball America is reporting that the younger Cron is asking for a large signing bonus in order to skip college and that may cause him to fall in the draft.
Chances are, however, that he will follow his brother in heading to college before joining the pro ranks unless the money — first-rounders get seven figure signing bonuses — is too much to turn down.
“It’s exciting to see where I might end up,” Kevin said. “I look forward to going through the process and getting the experience of being involved in something like this.”
Mountain Pointe coach Brandon Buck had the opportunity to coach both and said there are very few differences between the Cron boys.
“If I asked C.J. to hit the ball to the right side he would do it, but his answer as to how he did it was because that’s what I asked him to do,” Buck said. “Kevin would be able to come back and tell me exactly how he did it mechanically. Both were tremendous players, but that was about the only difference besides power between them.”
All of the at-bats, extra time in the batting cage and those special moments by their dad’s side have led to the next step.
“You can’t ask for anything more than this,” Kevin said. “If we both go in the first round that is going to be very special. It is something that is pretty rare. Even if we don’t then we will end up somewhere playing a game we love. That’s all we ever wanted to do.”