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Former Utes, Bees star C.J. Cron enjoying hot start to major league career

Published: Thursday, July 30 2015 12:27 p.m. MDT

Los Angeles Angels' C.J. Cron tosses the ball after fielding it against the Los Angeles Dodgers during an exhibition baseball game in Los Angeles Friday, March 28, 2014. (Danny Moloshok, Associated Press) Los Angeles Angels' C.J. Cron tosses the ball after fielding it against the Los Angeles Dodgers during an exhibition baseball game in Los Angeles Friday, March 28, 2014. (Danny Moloshok, Associated Press)

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Being a successful major league hitter is the biggest challenge in sports. You would never know it by looking at C.J. Cron’s batting statistics.

In his first five games since being called up from the Salt Lake Bees, Cron has compiled a .421 batting average with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He has had two three-hit games.

“This is the best of the best, so you have to have your A-game every day,” said Cron, who was the Angels’ first-round selection (17th overall) in the 2011 amateur baseball draft. Baseball America and ESPN named Cron as a first-team All-America selection during his junior season at the University of Utah. “Everything is bigger up here.”

Cron had three hits against the New York Yankees Wednesday night, the final game of a homestand before the Angels crossed the Canadian border to play the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night.

Los Angeles Angels' C.J. Cron is out at second base by a ball hit by Los Angeles Angels' Hank Conger, as New York Yankees' Yangervis Solarte completes the double play with a throw to first during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, May 6, 2014. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea, AP) Los Angeles Angels' C.J. Cron is out at second base by a ball hit by Los Angeles Angels' Hank Conger, as New York Yankees' Yangervis Solarte completes the double play with a throw to first during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, May 6, 2014. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea, AP)

Wednesday’s sellout crowd took more notice of Derek Jeter’s final regular-season game in Southern California. The Angels gave the Yankees’ all-time hit leader a pinstriped paddleboard before the game. Jeter returned the hospitality Wednesday by hitting his first home run of the season in a 9-2 New York victory.

The path to the major leagues is hardly ever simple, but Cron’s trip to Anaheim was fairly easy.

“I was told after Friday’s game that I was going up,” Cron said, getting the word from Salt Lake Bees manager Keith Johnson following a 14-5 home victory against the Reno Aces, a game in which he went 3-for-5.

After the short flight from Salt Lake to Santa Ana’s John Wayne Airport, he matched that three-hit total in his first night in the majors.

Los Angeles Angels' C.J. Cron tosses the ball after fielding it against the Los Angeles Dodgers during an exhibition baseball game in Los Angeles Friday, March 28, 2014. (Danny Moloshok, ASSOCIATED PRESS) Los Angeles Angels' C.J. Cron tosses the ball after fielding it against the Los Angeles Dodgers during an exhibition baseball game in Los Angeles Friday, March 28, 2014. (Danny Moloshok, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

With the Bees, Cron had a .319 batting average and led the PCL in doubles (12) and extra-base hits (19). He was third on the PCL RBI list with 26. The league leader in RBIs was former Bee Grant Green, who was summoned to the Angels the day before Cron.

Cron has forced the Angels’ media relations staff to work overtime, finding out information to start phrases that begin with, “the first Angels rookie since ….”

Cron's 3-for-5 outing in his debut against the Texas Rangers Saturday night made him the first Angels rookie to get three hits in his first big league game since Kendrys Morales in 2006. He became the fourth rookie in Angels history to accomplish this.

The 6-foot-4 first baseman was also the first big-league player this season to have an RBI that put his team ahead twice in one game. Cron was the first player to have two go-ahead RBIs since Don Baylor, who is now the Angels’ hitting coach, did it in 1970.

This is a 2014 photo of C.J. Cron of the Los Angeles Angels baseball team. This image reflects the Angels' active roster as of Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, when this photo was taken in Tempe, Ariz. (Matt York, ASSOCIATED PRESS) This is a 2014 photo of C.J. Cron of the Los Angeles Angels baseball team. This image reflects the Angels' active roster as of Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, when this photo was taken in Tempe, Ariz. (Matt York, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

“There is a lot to learn up here,” Cron said. “We go over pitchers in hitters’ meetings, figuring out what pitchers like to do. It is interesting to see how pitchers go about doing things.”

Yankees starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda had proven the toughest pitcher for Cron, who struck out twice and was hit by a pitch against Kuroda on Tuesday night.

Cron had a lot of family members watch him on the weekend in Anaheim. Cron’s father, former big leaguer Chris Cron, stayed for the three-game series against the Yankees. Kevin Cron, C.J.’s younger brother, plays for Texas Christian University.

The elder Cron played professional baseball for 12 years, including a 1991 stint with the Angels, who were then officially known as the California Angels. He also played with the Chicago White Sox in 1992 and had 22 or more home runs in four minor league seasons.

“My dad helped me all the way,” said Cron, adding that his father was his biggest influence on his baseball career.

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