It used to be that, right about now, Jordan Kron would be shelving his soccer cleats for sneakers and a basketball, trading one starring role for another at East Union.
Nowadays, his mind is wrapped solely around baseball and books in what he calls the “24-hour grind” of a Division-I athlete.
Kron is a sophomore reliever at UC Riverside – an up-and-coming Southern California program located about seven hours south of the Union Road campus he once dominated as a three-sport star.
The Highlanders have a cupboard full of promising freshmen and sophomores and a coach with a Major League pedigree.
Many in Northern California might remember Troy Percival as the enemy; the closer of the Anaheim Angels team that broke the hearts of so many Giants fans in the 2002 World Series.
Percival is a villain no longer. The first-year skipper represents the hope and future for one of Manteca’s most recent all-around talents.
With his bulldog build and spirit, as well as rocket right arm, Kron says he’s looked upon as an eighth-inning reliever or closer for the Highlanders, who finished tied for fifth in last year’s Big West standings.
Kron was 1-5 in 18 appearances as a true freshman, earning one save while striking out 20 in 28 innings.
“He likes the way I go about my business. I’m one of the more aggressive throwers on the team and he likes the stuff I have for one inning,” Kron said. “He views me as a back-innings guy. He sees a lot of himself in me. I’m trying to be a sponge and absorb as much as I can.
“He’s (ninth) all-time in saves ... I’d like to follow in his footsteps if I’m able to.”
‘Just a normal day’
For now, he walks the path of a Division-I athlete.
His offseason schedule has been parceled into blocks. Blocks for baseball. Blocks for school. Blocks for the gym. Blocks for baseball. Blocks for food, rest and ... did we say baseball?
He admits, the game he’s loved for years has become more and more like a job as he’s gotten older and reached higher levels, but it’s a job he still loves to do.
Kron wakes up every morning at 6 a.m. for two hours of weights and conditioning. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., he and many of his teammates are in class.
At 2:30, the Highlanders are on the practice diamond, sharpening their skills in drills and game-like situations in 3 1/2-hour sessions.
At 6 o’clock, Kron and his teammates check into study hall. After that, he’s free to find a good meal, rest and recover, or put in extra work in the gym or on the mound.
“That’s just a normal day, too,” he says with a chuckle. “You have to learn to love it. If you don’t, this is probably not for you.
“You have to find that balance. There are days when I’m like ‘Why am I doing this? It isn’t fun.’ But you try to look at the big picture – Friday night games versus UC Irvine – that makes it all worth it.”
This lifestyle has been for him since the moment he stepped foot on campus at East Union.
Three-sport star at EU loved being an athlete
Kron came to the Lancer athletic program with high expectations across all three seasons.
He was an accomplished soccer player, 3-point specialist and only son to the program’s career scoring leader, and a part of the national pool for baseball.
The 5-foot-8 dynamo didn’t disappoint, either.
He helped lead East Union boys soccer to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship game in 2011, and was a perennial all-Valley Oak League and All-Area player in basketball and baseball.
Kron was on pace to eclipse his father’s scoring mark in basketball, but chose to sit out his junior season to focus on baseball.
“It turned out to be the right decision for him,” his father Gary would later say, “and I totally supported that.”
Still, Jordan misses those hometown moments. So much so, in fact, he and fellow Highlander athlete Sommer Wilson, a Sierra grad, recently reminisced about the Family City.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss gearing up for those Friday nights for basketball or having chemistry with the soccer team growing up,” he said. “That’s what made my childhood so special, because I was doing things I loved ... being an athlete.”
Kron: ‘Getting after it’
to become a better player
These days, his focus is singular.
He and the Highlanders recently completed fall ball, a series of intra-squad scrimmages, and now began their preparation for the regular season.
Though his role hasn’t been solidified, Kron believes he’s a much stronger and much sounder baseball player than he was a year ago under then coach Doug Smith.
As a freshman, Kron said his body wasn’t quite ready to handle the rigors of a 54-game season. He also said his discipline and motivation, especially in those moments of freedom, wavered from time to time.
Not this year.
Kron has stayed on that 24-hour grind, realizing the reward – victories and saves, championships and possibly a selection in the 2016 amateur draft – will be worth the sacrifice.
“From Year 1 to Year 2, my maturity has gotten better. I’m going about my business and handling it the right way,” he said. “When I had free time, I contemplated whether I should put in extra hours or stay in the apartment and rest. I chose to allow my body to recover. This year, I’m getting after it.”
“(With) any free time, I’m going to the field or going to the weight room. It’s really paid off. My arm is holding up. My performance is 10 times better and we haven’t started the season yet. It’s the little decisions that say, ‘Do you want to get better?’ ”
To contact Managing Editor James Burns email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at jburns1980.