Albuquerque is only technically Chris Cron’s hometown, but the city has been part of his family’s business – baseball.
Cron, the Reno Aces’ first-year manager, was back in Albuquerque this week for a three-game series against the Isotopes. He was born here in 1964 and owns a spot on the short list of New Mexico natives who have played Major League Baseball.
Cron remembers the latter 41-game career far more clearly than his days as a Duke City resident.
“I lived in Albuquerque for all of a year-and-a-half,” Cron said. “Don’t really have any memories of that, but I’ve seen pictures.”
Cron and his sons have made some memorable visits since. Chris played numerous games at the Albuquerque Sports Stadium in the early 1990s when he was in the Pacific Coast League with Edmonton and Vancouver.
“I remember the lava rocks and the cars parking outside the outfield fence,” Cron said. “I remember how well the ball carried, too. I don’t think any hitter has ever minded playing here.”
Don’t expect his sons, C.J. and Kevin Cron, to argue the point.
C.J., who currently plays for the Minnesota Twins, came to Isotopes Park as both a member of the Utah Utes and the Salt Lake Bees. He posted some monster games for both teams.
Kevin plays first base for the Aces this season and has enjoyed himself at Isotopes Park. He homered in Tuesday’s series opener against the ‘Topes and went deep again in game one of Thursday’s doubleheader. His two-run blast helped the Aces to a 6-3 win in the first of two seven-inning games. The ‘Topes won the second game 4-2.
Whether it’s hit in Albuquerque or elsewhere, no one enjoys watching Kevin Cron launch home runs more than Chris, who took the Reno managing job in part because his son figured to be on the roster. Chris previously worked as hitting coordinator for the Aces’ parent club, the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he opted to return to minor-league managing for 2019.
“I saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Chris said. “I loved working as hitting coordinator, but having a chance to manage my son was such a big plus. If Kevin keeps grinding and is fortunate enough to get called up to the majors, I’ll be the guy who gets to tell him. That would be pretty special for a father.”
Chris gladly admits that baseball is pretty much life for the Cron family. He spent his Thursday watching C.J. play a matinee with the Twins before showing early for the doubleheader at Isotopes Park.
“We are baseball people.” he said. “That’s what we do. I watch all of C.J.’s at-bats either live or on tape and, of course, I get to see Kevin’s. Both of them hit home runs (Monday), so that was a pretty good day for the Crons.”
Chris Cron also gets to spend time with time with another familiar face when he visits Albuquerque. He and ‘Topes general manager John Traub grew up barely a block apart in Southern California, graduating from the same high school in the same class.
“Chris Cron’s mom was our family insurance agent,” Traub said. “He and I kind of moved in different circles but he was a great baseball player, I remember that.”
Traub was not renowned for his playing prowess.
“To steal a line, Chris was the athlete and I was the athletic supporter,” Traub joked.
Cron was a bit more complimentary.
“I’ve been around a lot of GMs in my career,” he said, “and John does a first-class job. It’s odd because we’ve both spent the same amount of time in baseball but in totally different roles. It’s always fun to catch up with him when I’m here.”
Shallow as they may run, Chris Cron also made it a point to explore his Albuquerque roots during a baseball visit. And Reno returns to Albuquerque to play the Isotopes on May 29-June 2.
“I came here with Reno when I was hitting coordinator a few years ago,” he said. “I called my mom and asked for the address so I could go see our old house. It looked pretty much the same as the pictures I’d seen, which was nice. I’m glad I got to see it.”