Many of the 8,602 fans at Smith’s Ballpark on Monday night waited expectantly for the first at-bat of a returned star.
Former Ute C.J. Cron stepped up the plate in the bottom of the first … and struck out.
He got up in the third, and struck out again. Not quite the return from the L.A. Angels that he was hoping for.
But finally in the fifth, Cron knocked a single to left center. He went on to score two game-tying scores, and in the critical eighth, his second single helped put J.B. Shuck in position to score the winning run in a 7-6 victory.
As Cron learned from his 53-game stint with the Angels, sometimes it takes a little longer to find his mojo. As his professional career goes on, he’s learning the patience to keep at it.
"Just get better — that’s all I can really do," Cron said on his first day back in Triple-A ball. "We were playing good baseball up there, so I want to continue that."
The 24-year-old first baseman was sent back down after his first tenure in the majors to make room on the roster for pitcher Huston Street.Although the move back to Triple-A isn’t a desirable one for any ballplayer, Cron was smiling in his first batting practice back in Salt Lake City, and the Bees were glad to have him.Never lacking power, Cron notched nine homers, eight doubles and 27 RBIs in the majors since getting called up in May. But he hit .269 with 40 strikeouts, which leaves room for improvement. A positional logjam in the big leagues also led him to get as many starts at first as designated hitter — one of the few times in his career Cron hasn’t been an everyday starter.
"Just getting at-bats, they were pretty sporadic," he said. "I did the best I could. You just try to come [to Triple-A] and get better and try to work some stuff out."
Smith’s Ballpark may be just the answer for Cron, who batted .339 earlier in the season in the ballpark where he was a renowned college slugger. Cron also said he brought back tidbits from the Angels’ hard-hitting lineup, including Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton.
Cron’s wasn’t the only homecoming on Monday: Taylorsville native John Buck, who lives in Bluffdale, reported to the Angels and started as a DH.
The 34-year-old is hoping for a career renaissance after being waived by the Seattle Mariners last week. Buck contacted the Angels to offer his services, and they accepted. With the big league club looking solid to make the postseason, Buck thinks he can catch on the roster as a third catcher.
The commute is much easier on his family, he said, and he gets to play in front of old friends. Buck did a bit of reminiscing about the field where he won a 5A state title in 1998.
"I have memories of literally my high school tournament, and getting piled on right there," he said. "It’s kind of come full circle."
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