Inland Empire first baseman/designated hitter C.J. Cron
has faced a tough fight at nearly every stage of his baseball career. As an elite hitter at the University of Utah last year, he hit .434 and led all NCAA Division I hitters with a .803 slugging percentage, all while fighting through a torn labrum in his shoulder.
After the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim chose him 17th overall in last summer's Draft, Cron once again wowed the masses with his power hitting in the Pioneer League but fell victim to a dislocated kneecap Aug. 7, ending his 2011 season.
Now Cron is healthy, thanks to offseason surgeries to repair both the shoulder and knee that have dogged him. His rehabilitation regimen was a testament to how baseball is no longer just a summer game. Cron worked out during the entire offseason, focusing on strengthening his entire body to take some of the strain off his dislocated knee.
Thanks to all the hard work, Cron feels better than ever.
"My first game back I was ready to go," he said.
Cron is hitting .319 this month and has seen his on-base percentage steadily rise due to a keen eye at the plate.
The shoulder still impacts Cron's game. He's listed as a first baseman on the Angels' depth chart, but has played as much at designated hitter as he has at first.
"I've been battling with my shoulder, and that has a lot to do with where I'm playing right now," he said. "I'm trying to play as much first as I can."
Cron has a deep personal background in baseball. His father, Chris, played 12 professional seasons and is now the manager of the Double-A Erie SeaWolves. Brother Kevin is a prospect coming out of high school. Chad Moeller, who caught 10 seasons in in the Majors, is Cron's cousin.
Cron calls baseball his destiny, which explains the strength he's shown through all the injury troubles and setbacks.
"With my dad playing the game for so long, it's everything I know," Cron said. "It's what I grew up with."
Cron played catcher at Utah and says the everyday duties at DH haven't fazed him. It's his instinct to survive in baseball that has allowed him to adapt to his new role and do it well.
"The Angels want me to hit so I'm in the lineup every day," he said.
Not too far from the 66ers home in San Bernardino, the highest-paid acquisition in Angels suffered suffered through a terrible April slump. But Albert Pujols' presence -- successful or otherwise -- makes it difficult for any of the Angels' upcoming first base prospects to dream of a future in Los Angeles.
Cron takes it all in stride.
"They went out and got the best free agent in a long time," he said. "I'm happy for the organization, and whatever they want me to do, I'll do it."
Taking off: Lancaster's Erik Castro has enjoyed the hitter-friendly confines of the California League. He's hitting .378 over his last 10 games and has 20 RBIs this season. Castro's good times at the plate aren't just due to the hitter-friendly ballparks. His OBP is .389, and he has 12 walks to 38 strikeouts.
Big winner: High Desert left-hander Anthony Fernandez had one of the best starts of his 2012 season May 14. He earned the win over Visalia with 6 2/3 innings and nine strikeouts. It was his highest strikeout total of the year and his first win since April 26.
Dealing the cards: Rawhide starter Michael Bolsinger tossed six scoreless innings May 12 against San Jose while striking out 10 batters. The right-hander did not factor in the a decision but saw his May ERA shrink to 0.98. Bolsinger has 22 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings this month.