Judging by the numbers he's put up during his career, C.J. Cron knows what to do with a baseball when he sees one. Based on his family pedigree, the Arkansas Travelers first baseman and Los Angeles Angels prospect may have had an unfair headstart in that area.
Cron, who was christened Christopher John Cron Jr., is hitting .313 with two homers and 18 RBIs in his Double-A debut with the Travs. His dad, Chris Sr., a second-round pick of the Braves in 1985 who reached the Majors with the Angels in 1991 and White Sox in 1992, has been a Minor League manager since 1995 and currently helms the first-place Erie SeaWolves, the Tigers' Double-A Eastern League affiliate.
"I knew he played for [the Angels], which was pretty cool," Cron said of his dad, also a first baseman who played behind Wally Joyner and went 2-for-15 in his brief stay with the club. "Any time I have a question about how to approach a certain situation, whether it's on or off the field, I can always ask him and he'll tell me what he thinks is best. It's a nice little lifeline."
Cron's baseball family extends a bit further than the father-son relationship. He has a brother playing for Texas Christian University, and his cousin is Chad Moeller, who spent nine years in the Majors at catcher.
"Chad's got some little kids running around, so we're always tossing them the ball," Cron said of family get-togethers. "Kind of like they did with me growing up."
The only thing missing from Cron's game this year has been power, something of a surprise after he led the California League with 27 homers and the entire Minors with 127 RBIs in 2012. Cron seemed intent on rectifying that Saturday, falling a triple shy of the cycle in Arkansas' 8-6 victory at Tulsa.
"Every arm they throw out there is pretty good," Cron said of Double-A. "You've got to be ready every day."
Cron was taken 17th overall by the Angels out of the University of Utah in 2011. Given Albert Pujols' long-term contract and the presence of Mark Trumbo, who played first in the Minors but was moved to the outfield, Cron may need to accept a position switch someday, barring a trade. But the future is hard to read, and Cron is quicker and more agile than his 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame might lead observers to believe.
"He plays as far in the four hole as I've ever seen a first baseman play with the ability to get back to first base no problem," Arkansas manager Tim Bogar said. "Kind of reminds me how Carlos Pena played first base with the Tampa Bay Rays, so his range is pretty good. He looks like he's big and slow, but he's not at all."
"You've got to work on everything," Cron said. "I wanted to work on my defense quite a bit. I wanted to get better over there, and basically every aspect of my offense as well. Just kind of stick with it, and whatever I felt like I needed to do to improve, I try to work on."
Long history: Northwest Arkansas and Springfield played the longest game in the history of each team Saturday, a 20-inning marathon that lasted five hours, 38 minutes and resulted in a 5-4 win for the Naturals. The league's longest game took place in 1988 between Jackson and San Antonio, lasting 26 innings and spanned seven hours and 23 minutes.
On strike: Carlos Pimental matched his career high with nine strikeouts en route to his fourth victory as Frisco beat Corpus Christi, 5-2, on Sunday afternoon. The series split left Frisco tied with San Antonio for second in the South Division, two games behind Corpus Christi.
New Mission: It was a showdown between big leaguer and prospect between San Antonio and Midland on Sunday, and the prospect got the upper hand. The Missions knocked around rehabbing Oakland A's lefty Brett Anderson, while San Diego Padres prospect Matt Wisler pitched five strong innings in his Double-A debut, reaching 96 mph on the radar gun in the Missions' 8-3 victory.