|Inland Empire 66ers first baseman C.J. Cron connects on a swing July 25 at San Manuel Stadium. (G21D Photo)|
Note: This is another installment from The Greatest 21 Days' late July trip through central and southern California.
Inland Empire first baseman C.J. Cron had been quiet to this point in the game. He was actually 0 for 4, but had hit a couple balls for deep outs. Still, they were outs.
But now, with the game extending to the 11th tied at six, Cron came to bat again. This time, the bases were loaded, one out. What Cron and the 66ers needed was a hit. Any hit. Or maybe one of those long fly balls from earlier.
It was July 25 and The Greatest 21 Days was visiting Inland Empire's San Manuel Stadium, for interviews with the 66ers manager Bill Haselman and hitting coach Paul Sorrento.
Both Haselman and Sorrento were in the CMC set this site has been featuring. Haselman was with AA Tulsa for 1990; Sorrento with AAA Portland.
But there was another connection to the CMC set there in San Bernardino. It was Cron. Cron's father Chris Cron was in the set as a member of the AAA Edmonton Trappers. (When the elder Cron's photo was snapped in his Trappers uniform for the CMC set, Cron was still a new father, C.J. hardly four months old.)
|The San Manuel Stadium scoreboard in the bottom of the third inning July 25 showing 66ers first baseman C.J. Cron. (G21D Photo)|
Cron's son C.J. is in his second year as a pro, taken by the Angels in the first round, 17th overall, of the 2011 draft.
Going into July 25th's contest against Rancho Cucamonga, Cron was hitting about .291, with 17 home runs to his credit.
It was a showing that had both his manager and hitting coach speaking well of him before the game.
"He's a great young player," Sorrento told The Greatest 21 Days when asked of Cron. "He's still real young. This is his first full year of professional baseball."
Sorrento actually knows Cron's father, having played with him at single-A Palm Springs back in 1988.
Sorrento credited Cron's father in helping prepare C.J. for life in the pros.
|San Bernardino's San Manuel Stadium, home of the Inland Empire 66ers and Angels prospect C.J. Cron. (G21D Photo)|
Inland Empire manager Haselman also had praise for the 22-year-old product of the University of Utah, calling him "really talented."
"He has a lot of upside potential, hits the ball like a big league player," Haselman said of Cron. "The ball comes off his bat really well. He's improved a ton this year hitting, from the beginning of the year. Just a really solid hitter."
Sorrento concurred with the improvement. The hitting coach said Cron has had a tremendous year, but it hasn't come easy for him.
Sorrento's watched as Cron put in his work to see that improvement.
"He's worked extremely hard," Sorrento said in the 66ers dugout before that July 25th game. "He's come a long ways since spring training to now, he's been really consistant. It's good to see good things happen to good kids. He's a real good kid. He works hard. He's a humble kid and he's a good teammate."
Fast forward to the bottom of the 11th.
As if on cue, Cron backed up everything his manager and hitting coach said about him.
On a 1-1 pitch from the Quakes' Eammon Portice, Cron hit another long fly. This one cleared the fence with plenty to spare, for a walk-off grand slam.
Watch The Greatest 21 Days' video of C.J. Cron's walk-off grand slam from July 25, 2012: