New York Yankee fans might see a familiar player on the mound this week as the Yankees travel to Chicago for the next few days.
But that familiar face will not be wearing the grey road uniform of the Yankees. Montclair’s Declan Cronin will be wearing jersey number 59 of Chicago White Sox in the series in Chicago from August 7 to the 9th.
It will be with conflicting feelings for Cronin, who grew up as a Yankees fan (his favorite player was Derek Jeter) but is now a member of the White Sox roster as a relief pitcher.
Cronin, who played several years for the Montclair Bulldogs traveling baseball team, recently got the call up from Triple-A Charlotte to the big club in Chicago.
The right hander was at his hotel room last week, after a night game of the Charlotte Knights, the White Sox Triple-A affiliate in Durham, when Knights manager Justin Jirshele knocked on the door to tell him he was going to the big show.
“I think it was about 11:50 at night we were in a hotel in Durham, North Carolina,” Cronin recalled. “The manager knocked on my door and I sort of knew what he was going to tell me when I saw him…I heard some rumors going around that it could be coming up, but I didn’t think it would be at that moment.”
The 25-year-old, 6-feet-4, 225-pound right hander was activated on July 28. His advancement was helped after the White Sox put up the white flag on the season as they traded a couple of their top relievers a few days before Cronin got the call.
Cronin was surprised by how the word leaked out so quickly that he had been promoted to the majors.
“It took me six hours to respond to all the texts,” said Cronin who added that he spent plenty of time on the plane from Durham to Chicago responding to the texts. “It was pretty unbelievable.”
And that included his former teammates with the Bulldogs, Regis High School in New York City and at the College of Holy Cross.
“I was actually able to speak with a number of guys I played with when the news broke that I was being called up,” said Cronin who pointed out the former Montclair Bulldogs sending their congratulations. “A bunch of former teammates reached out to wish me well and it really meant a lot to reconnect with them.”
After graduating from Lacordaire Academy in Montclair in 2011, Declan followed in the footsteps of his brother, Brian, to attend Regis High School in the city and then went on to the College of Holy Cross.
Cronin became one of the few Crusaders to reach the big show. He was the first College of Holy Cross graduate to play in Major League Baseball since 1977 when Mike Hegan and Mike Pazik played for the Milwaukee Brewers and the Minnesota Twins respectively.
“During his time here at Holy Cross, Declan set the standard on the field, in the classroom and in the community,” said current Crusaders head coach Ed Kahovec about Cronin. Kahovec was an assistant coach at the time Cronin was at Holy Cross. “I am so thrilled for Declan and the opportunity that he has earned to be our first major leaguer in a long time. He has a relentless pursuit of excellence and that is what makes him such a special individual. He is making history and we could not be more proud of him.”
Cronin was drafted by the White Sox in 2019 in the 36th round as the 1,070 overall pick. Before being drafted the Montclair native earned All-Patriot League first honors for Holy Cross as he had the second-best ERA in Patriot League play in the conference at 2.70 ERA.
In four years in the minors, he has appeared in 145 contests, recording a 3.86 earned-run average with a 10-6 record. He received an invite to the White Sox’ Spring Training in 2023 and has spent the entire season to this point with the AAA Charlotte Knights, with 41 relief appearances.
A couple days later after being called up, Cronin was called in by Chicago White Sox manager Pedro Grifol to pitch against the Cleveland Guardians on July 30 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.
“I think the first time your name is called you get a jolt of adrenaline times one hundred,” said the Montclair native whose parents, Kevin and Patricia Cronin attended his debut. His parents moved from Montclair in 2020 to Franklin, Tenn. “Once you start warming up and throwing, you settle down.”
While Cronin gave up a two-run home run to future hall of famer Guardians’ Jose Ramirez, the brand-new White Sox reliever pitched two innings in his debut allowing two runs on the home run.
Cronin was more perturbed about the batter before Ramirez when he gave a free pass to Guardians’ Andres Gimenez. Despite the two runs, the White Sox reliever was happy with his debut.
“I thought overall I handled it really well,” said the right-hander. “I was more upset with the walk than the home run. You never want to give up a walk. The pitch to Ramirez was supposed to be down and in and I got it up. It wasn’t a bad pitch.”
Cronin has three pitches, sinker, slider and sweeping slider. “I’m going to go out and compete with these pitches,” said Cronin, who will also add to his pitching arsenal.
Cronin’s target for the rest of the 2023 Major League Baseball season is to ‘gain experience’ every day and be primed to make a major impact for the White Sox in their drive for the playoffs in 2024.
“I think my plan this season is to gain experience and improve every day,” said Cronin. “And then come into camp next spring and solidify a position.”
In his days in Montclair on the baseball diamond, Cronin was a staple on the Montclair Bulldogs traveling team from 2006-11 which was considered 8-years-old-to-13-years-old and under, six seasons with the Montclair Bulldogs. “We had some pretty good teams and won a few divisions,” said Cronin.
For the White Sox reliever, he recalls some of his best times with the Bulldogs, especially the team’s trip to the city of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, New York. “There are a lot of great memories, but traveling to Cooperstown and playing in the Dream’s Park Tournament there is certainly one that sticks out.”
Cooperstown is always the dream of Major League Baseball players to someday be enshrined with the greatest of all time.
But for Declan, learning how to pitch against the best-of-the-best of the current Major League Baseball players is what is on his mind these days with the White Sox.
After he was drafted in 2019, Cronin started in the Arizona League (for rookies) where he only pitched in seven games before being promoted to Class A ball at Kannapolis, North Carolina where he got into 13 games in the final part of the 2019 season.
Then COVID came around in 2020. “We were in spring training when everything shut down,” said Cronin.
He stayed with his parents in Tennessee where he worked out at the local high school during the minor league closure. Then he came to the 2021 Spring Training, ready to move closer for his dream of reaching the big leagues.
A little more than two years later his dream became reality.