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Bees slugger C.J. Cron enjoys returning to SLC — but not when he’s trying to get back to the bigs

SHARE Bees slugger C.J. Cron enjoys returning to SLC — but not when he’s trying to get back to the bigs
The foot’s great. That was pretty easy; it got better in about five days. The wrist is OK too, going to test it out (Thursday) and hopefully it feels good and I can get back up there. – C.J. Cron

Former University of Utah slugger and current Salt Lake Bees player C.J. Cron loves to spend time in Salt Lake City. He loves to attend Utah football games at Rice-Eccles Stadium, talk to former teammates and head coach Bill Kinneberg and go out to eat with friends.

During baseball season, though, Cron would rather not be in Salt Lake City. Why? Because that means that he’s not with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the MLB parent club of the Salt Lake Bees.

For Cron, it’s been a long road to be able to stick with the Angels and he wants to spend every moment possible in the Show.

Cron’s father, Chris, is a former major league player, who played for the California Angels in 1991 and the Chicago White Sox in 1992. Chris coached C.J., molding his swing and teaching him how to play the game.

“He (Chris) was always my hitting coach, so anything he learned, I kind of grew up hitting like that,” Cron said. “I was just always around the game, so I was just learning by being there. You kind of pick up on things that other kids don’t have the opportunity to do. Being around all of his teams made everything a lot better for me.”

Cron played high school ball in Arizona and was drafted out of high school in the 44th round of the 2008 MLB draft, but decided to play college baseball at the University of Utah instead.

“I got drafted really late, so that wasn’t really an option. In regards to Utah, I really liked the city. I liked the coaching staff, I liked all the guys and it seemed like a good fit for me,” Cron said.

The decision to play college baseball paid off for Cron. In his freshman year, he led Utah in hits, doubles, home runs and runs batted in. In 2009, the Utes shocked the Mountain West Conference by winning the conference tournament and earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The MWC conference tournament championship was Cron’s favorite moment while at Utah.

“We were the sixth seed and we were well under .500, but we just put together a good week and we beat TCU at their place,” Cron said. “That was a lot of fun to be able to dog pile and all that kind of stuff.”

Cron still keeps up with Utah baseball during the season and was happy to see the Utes win the 2016 Pac-12 championship.

“What they did last year was awesome. A lot of alumni were really proud of that moment and it was fun to watch,” Cron said.

Cron even got a free dinner out of the Utes’ title.

“Me and Kole Calhoun, he went to Arizona State, we usually have a dinner bet for all the sports,” Cron said. “I usually concede baseball but last year was a clean sweep of basketball, football and baseball, so I got to rub it in a little bit.”

After his collegiate career, Cron was drafted by the Angels in the first round with the 17th overall pick, marking the first time a Utah baseball player had been selected in the first round of the MLB draft. He debuted with the Angels on May 3, 2014, against the Texas Rangers. In his first major league game, Cron went 3-for-5 with a double and two runs batted in.

“All of your hard work kind of coming together. Getting that phone call and having some family there to watch, it’s a special moment,” Cron said about his big-league debut.

Cron played 79 games in Los Angeles in 2014, batting .256 with 11 home runs and 37 RBIs. In 2015 and 2016, Cron was a mainstay in Anaheim, playing in 113 and 116 games, respectively. Cron’s best season thus far was last year when he batted .278 with 68 RBIs, 16 home runs and 25 doubles. In July 2016, Cron broke his left hand and underwent surgery over the offseason. In late April 2017, Cron fouled a ball off his foot, bruising it. Cron was placed on the 10-day disabled list, but was hit on the hand in his first at-bat of his rehab stint in Salt Lake City, causing him to be with the Bees for longer than expected.

“The foot’s great. That was pretty easy; it got better in about five days. The wrist is OK too, going to test it out (Thursday) and hopefully it feels good and I can get back up there,” Cron said. Cron has played in just 17 games for the Angels in the 2017 season, hitting .233 with three RBIs.

Cron remains confident that he will return to Anaheim soon and boost the Halos.

“Just help the team win. We’ve had a lot of injuries so far, unfortunately, but we’re hanging around, and we know that we have a good team,” Cron said on his goals for the 2017 season. “Just put everything together and hope we can win games.”

In Salt Lake’s 6-5 win over the Iowa Cubs on Thursday, Cron went 2-for-4 with two doubles.

“I’m just glad that he felt comfortable enough and healthy enough to get back in the game and continue his rehab stint,” Bees manager Keith Johnson said. “Hopefully he feels good enough in the next few days to get back up to the big leagues. I liked the way he swung the bat tonight.”

Twitter: JoeAColes

Email: jcoles@deseretnews.com