The Oakland A’s have a couple new faces on their coaching staff this year, including two external hires from outside the organization.
One of the arrivals is Chris Cron, who came over from the D’Backs and will serve as Oakland’s assistant hitting coach.
However, just because Cron is new to the A’s doesn’t mean he’s a novice when it comes to coaching. Neither does the fact that this is his first MLB coaching job, nor that it carries the word “assistant” in the title.
In fact, Cron has more seasons of experience than anybody else on the staff, and with his 58th birthday approaching he’s the second-oldest after 60-year-old quality control coach Mike Aldrete. What’s more, on top of Cron’s extensive work in the minors, he’s also got a few other ballplayers in his own family — including two of his sons, C.J. Cron and Kevin Cron.
Chris Cron was drafted by the Braves in 1984 as a first baseman. He spent a dozen years playing in the minors, with half of those coming in Triple-A, but he never got more than a cup of coffee in the majors.
He did finally get the call to the Show, in 1991 for the California Angels, but he only lasted six games. The next year he played six more games for the White Sox, and that was the end of his time in the majors. His final career line at the plate was 2-for-25 with a pair of walks.
But that was only the beginning of Cron’s baseball journey. In June of 1995 he retired as a player and immediately stepped into a manager job, for one of Chicago’s affiliates in the Rookie League. He continued managing for the next 19 straight seasons, at every level up through Triple-A, and later added a 20th campaign to his resume.
His first years as a skipper came in the White Sox system, then a few summers in the Rockies org, then back to the Sox for a while, followed by some time on the Tigers farm. During his three years leading Colorado’s Triple-A team, his hitting coach was Jim Eppard, who is now the A’s minor league hitting coordinator.
Cron finally tried out a different role in 2014. The New Mexico native moved to the D’Backs organization, becoming Arizona’s minor league hitting coordinator for the next five years. However, in 2019 he returned to the dugout, as the manager for the club’s Triple-A affiliate in Reno.
That assignment was particularly special because one of the players on the roster was his son Kevin, who had been drafted by the D’Backs a few months after Chris was hired by the team. Kevin played 82 games for Reno that year and crushed the ball to the tune of a 182 wRC+, slugging an incredible 38 homers in 377 plate appearances, and in May he got the call to Arizona for his MLB debut. Since Chris was the manager, he got to deliver the good news to his son.
Chris was set to manage Reno again in 2020, but the pandemic wiped out the minor league season. In 2021 he switched to a new position, as the club’s minor league field coordinator.
Now he’s joining Oakland, after eight years in Arizona and 30 years roaming the minors. Three decades after his last MLB appearance as a player, he’s finally headed back to the Show, this time as a coach.
Chris isn’t the only ballplayer in his family, though.
One year after Cron retired from playing, his cousin Chad Moeller was drafted by the Twins in 1996. Four years later Moeller made his MLB debut, and he stuck in the majors for parts of 11 seasons as a catcher. He played 501 games in total for seven different teams, mostly the D’Backs and Brewers.
- Chad Moeller, MLB: .226/.288/.352, 61 wRC+, 29 HR, 315 hits
Among his career highlights, he was on the 2001 Arizona team that won the World Series, though he didn’t play in that postseason. He did appear the next October and went 2-for-5 in the NLDS.
When Moeller hung up his spikes in 2011, Chris’ son C.J. Cron was drafted by the Angels in the 1st round. C.J. reached the majors in 2014, and he’s still slugging to this day. His defense is limited to 1B/DH duties, but his bat has registered as above-average in nearly every year of his career, beginning with four summers on the Angels and then pit stops in Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Detroit, and Colorado. In 2018 he hit 30 homers for the Rays, and most recently in 2021 he blasted 28 dingers for the Rockies.
- C.J. Cron, MLB: .261/.323/.475, 113 wRC+, 146 HR, 10.8 bWAR, 7.3 fWAR
Last year might have been his best work yet, at age 31. His 127 wRC+ was a career-high for a full season, as was his .375 OBP by an enormous margin of 50 points, all with a relatively modest strikeout rate. The whole package added up to 2-3 WAR, and it earned him a two-year, $14 million contract to stay in Colorado through 2023.
Meanwhile, a month after C.J. debuted in the majors, his younger brother Kevin Cron was drafted by Arizona. As a 14th-round pick he didn’t bring the same prospect stock as his older sibling, but nevertheless he smashed his way up the minor league ladder and got to MLB by 2019. He played 39 games that year and swatted some dingers, but only saw eight more games in 2020.
- Kevin Cron, MLB: .170/.245/.420, 6 HR, 4 doubles, 15-for-88
Last summer he headed to Japan and found consistent playing time, so entering age 29 we might not have heard the last of Kevin.
Moeller went on to become a youth coach and instructor, and on his website Chad Moeller Baseball he talks about watching his cousins C.J. and Kevin grow up around the sport:
... So these two boys grew up on a baseball field. They grew up in the dugout while serving as summer bat boys. They grew up by shagging balls in the outfield while minor leaguers were taking batting practice. ...
I am amazed how these two boys have grown up. How they have matured into young men who are humble, appreciative and caring. I am reminded of how they were raised so well by their parents and family.
I am also reminded of how well the game of baseball has raised these young men. This game has taught them so much of what it means to be young men. How to deal with adversity. How to deal with success. How to get up every day and grind.
Baseball has had a wonderful hand in raising these two young men.
That is the wonderful untold truth about this game. It will raise you. It will mold you. It will prepare you for your life. All you have to do is put on your cleats and go play every day. Listen and learn the rules.
Play the game the right way and you will probably be living the right way.
While Chris was helping develop new generations of prospects in the minors, he was also helping raise a couple of young players at home.
This will be Cron’s first time coaching in the majors, but he’s no rookie. He brings mountains of experience to the A’s and the staff of manager Mark Kotsay, both on the field and off it.