Winter 2022 magazine

All-Star Jake Cronenworth leans on the Lord as he helps Padres in MLB playoffs

No player saw action in more games or made more plate appearances for the San Diego Padres during the regular season than infielder Jake Cronenworth. He was second on the team in runs, hits and RBIs as San Diego went 89-73 to reach the postseason for the second time in three years.

“This is what we show up to spring training for and do all the hard work in the offseason,” Cronenworth said after the Padres clinched a playoff spot. “To celebrate with these guys, to have the opportunity to go to the postseason and achieve our ultimate goal, couldn’t do it with a better group of guys.”

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The Padres entered the playoffs as the No. 5 seed in the National League and knocked off the No. 4-seeded New York Mets to set up a meeting with division rival and No. 1-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers in the divisional round. Cronenworth collected his first two hits of the postseason and scored a run as the Padres lost Game 1 on Tuesday, 5-3.

Coming out of the University of Michigan in 2015, Cronenworth did not envision himself making All-Star teams or even making a big-league impact as a second baseman. He explained on Sports Spectrum’s “Table Forty” podcast last year that the teams interested in drafting him had a different plan in mind.

“I actually thought I was going to get drafted as a pitcher,” Cronenworth, who was a two-way player at Michigan, said on the podcast. “All the teams that I had talked to were basically just saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to take you as a reliever.'”

The Tampa Bay Rays surprised the St. Clair, Michigan, native by taking him in the seventh round as a second baseman. He briefly explored the possibility becoming a two-way player again in the minors, but was eventually traded to San Diego on Dec. 6, 2019.

Cronenworth made his MLB debut on July 20, 2020, and hit .285 while playing in 54 of the team’s 60 games during the pandemic-shortened season. He finished tied for second in NL Rookie of the Year voting as the Padres snapped a 13-year playoff drought.

San Diego missed the playoffs in 2021, but Cronenworth hit .266 with 21 home runs and 71 RBIs as he made his first All-Star team. He earned the honor again this season (.240, 17 HRs, 88 RBIs) while becoming less of a utility player and more like San Diego’s everyday second baseman.

As he’s settled into the big leagues, the 28-year-old has also settled into rhythms that help him grow in his faith. Cronenworth said on “Table Forty” that he went to church at least once a week growing up, but his schedule in college made it difficult to attend church regularly. So he started relying on other ways to strengthen his relationship with God, such as attending Athletes in Action meetings.

He faces the same challenge in the major leagues, so he makes attending chapel services part of his routine to help keep God at the center of his life.

“[Chapel] is one of the best things that could’ve ever happened,” Cronenworth said on the podcast. “To have somebody come to the field every Sunday for us and preach to us is incredible because we just don’t have the time to go to church.”

He specifically pointed to veteran pitcher Craig Stammen as one of the players who’s become a spiritual mentor for him.

“The biggest thing Craig’s brought to me … is basically [telling me to] pick a time and a place every day where you just have time just to pray,” he said on the podcast.

Cronenworth and the Padres have a chance to even up the series with a win in Game 2 on Wednesday night. First pitch from Dodger Stadium is at 8:37 p.m. ET.

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