The Reno Aces and big league affiliate Arizona Diamondbacks named Chris Cron as manager for the 2019 MiLB season. Rounding out the rest of the staff will be pitching coach Jeff Bajenaru, hitting coach Jason Camilli and bench coach Greg Gross, who served as the Aces manager for the past two seasons.
Cron is a familiar name to Aces’ followers. The new manager’s son, Kevin Cron, played third and first base for Reno last season.
Cron, 54, becomes the fourth Aces manger in the team’s 11-year history. He enters his 35th season in the pros as both a manager and player. He’s in his sixth season with the Dbacks’ organization. Cron has served as the Dbacks’ minor league hitting coordinator since 2014.
“Chris has spent a great deal of time in Reno over the past five years and we are excited to have him at the helm full-time in 2019,” Aces General Manager Emily Jaenson said Tuesday in a press release. “Chris follows in great footsteps of Brett Butler, Phil Nevin and Greg Gross. I am confident he will represent the Aces well on the field and in our community.”
Aces’ animated slugging first baseman Cody Decker tweeted, “This is a fantastic coaching staff!”
Cron has more than 19 years of managerial experience at every level in the minor leagues, winning Manager of the Year in the California League in 1998 and Pioneer League in 2008. He’s led his teams to eight playoff appearances and sports a .495 record (1,127-1,149).
As a player, Cron was a second-round pick in the 1984 MLB amateur draft coming out of Santa Ana, California. Cron had brief stints in the majors, appearing in 12 career games with the California Angles in 1991 and Chicago White Sox in 1992. He spent most of his 12-year career in the minors, playing more than 760 career games with the Braves, Angels, White Sox and Indians’ minor league affiliates.
Cron is a father of two professional sluggers, C.J. and Kevin. C.J., 29, signed a 1-year deal with the Minnesota Twins this offseason. He was a first-round selection by the Angels in 2011 and has accumulated 89 homers, 287 RBIs in his five seasons.
Kevin, 25, was named to the All-PCL team in 104 games with the Aces in 2018 and led the team with 22 homers and 97 RBIs. He was named to Arizona’s 40-man roster Nov. 20 and will compete for the starting first baseman spot in spring training.
Gross returns for his seventh season in the Biggest Little City after leading the team to a second place finish in the Pacific Northern Division with a 72-68 record last year. He had a 152-130 career record and won the division title in 2017. Gross, who batted .287 in a 17-year career in the majors, will bring his expertise to every position group on the field and assist Cron in the dugout, as well.
Camilli enters his second season as Reno’s hitting coach and eighth with the Dbacks. Camilli worked his way throughout the Dbacks’ minor league system, starting out as a hitting coach for the Yakima Bears in 2012. His addition has made the Aces one of the more dangerous teams at the plate. Reno was third in the PCL with a .284 team batting average and clubbed 156 home runs last season.
Bajenaru starts his first season with the Aces and ninth with the Dbacks organization. Bajenaru was named the 2017 California League Coach of the Year for the Visalia Rawhide. The pitching staff led the league in ERA, strikeouts, WHIP and opponents batting average that season. He also appeared in 14 major league games with the White Sox and Dbacks during his playing career.
Cron will meet with season ticket holders at the Aces annual Hot Stove Luncheon at the El Dorado Feb. 4. The Aces will also hold an introductory press conference for local media members at Greater Nevada Field Feb. 5.
The Aces open the season on the road, playing April 4-8 at Fresno. A seven-game homestand begins at Greater Nevada Field on April 9 with a game against the Albuquerque Isotopes.
The Diamondbacks have not announced when pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to their spring training facility in Scottsdale, but it should be about Feb. 12 or 13.
— Isaiah Burrows