PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Family is everything for Jake Cronenworth, who is participating in spring training for the first time in his professional baseball career.
The Tampa Bay Rays selected him in the seventh round of the 2015 Major League Baseball (MLB) amateur draft.
Cronenworth’s mother passed away when he was four years old. As such, having his family as a support group is not something he takes for granted. He attributes much of his success to his father, Charles.
“It’s just been incredible,” says Cronenworth. “He raised me and my brother as a single parent.”
His father travelling back home to Michigan to watch him play, and help take care of the family, is something Cronenworth considers very special.
During the 2015 MLB draft the future second baseman encouraged his family members to join him.
“It was awesome,” Cronenworth says. “They were probably more excited than I was.”
He spoke glowingly of his family, noting that they like to relive their sports careers vicariously through him, and he enjoys their reactions and support.
Cronenworth credits his versatility on the baseball diamond as the largest factor for his success. He played at several positions, including shortstop, outfielder, first and second base, and most notably as the closer for the men’s baseball team at the University of Michigan.
Cronenworth earned MVP honours after the team won the 2015 Big Ten Tournament, the school’s first such title since 2008.
Despite all the success he had at his various positions, the Rays drafted him as a second baseman, and not as a pitcher.
“My family and my agent were surprised,” said Cronenworth. “I had obviously been doing both [positions] in college, but a lot of people saw me as a pitcher.”
Looking back towards his time at Michigan, the seventh-round draft pick says he is happy to have been a part of something special at his alma mater.
“When you walk into the facility you see the guys who have played before, and you see names like Barry Larkin, Jim Abbott, and Branch Rickey. It’s a special program to be a part of,” Cronenworth said.