What a way to kick off the week for Matt Cronin – the 2015 PNJ all-area pitcher of the year.
Monday afternoon, the Navarre lefty inked his letter of intent to the University of Arkansas and fulfilled a lifelong dream, all in front of his closest teammates, friends, family and Navarre administration.
“Signing was a great feeling, it’s nice to have that out of the way,” said Cronin, who tallied 143 strikeouts while allowing just 22 hits during his junior season. “Playing college ball has been a lifelong dream of mine. As I’ve gotten older, my dream keeps getting bigger and bigger. Now I wanna go all the way.”
While Cronin said at first he “didn’t expect to fall in love” when visited Arkansas, but after seeing the facilities and meeting the baseball coaches, his outlook changed.
“After I went to a camp at Arkansas last summer, I knew it was the place for me,” the 18-year old said. “When I got the offer (from Arkansas), I couldn’t have been more excited.”
As soon as Cronin picked up the pen to sign on Monday, the Navarre cafeteria erupted in applause and “Cronin” chants by the signee’s teammates.
“I don’t think I could have closer bonds with anyone else (than I do with my teammates),” said Cronin, who finished 8-2 with four earned runs last season. “I’ve grown up in Navarre …. lived here for 13 years. I’ve played with my teammates my whole life.”
The bond between Raider teammates was something that Navarre head coach Scott Murphy immediately noticed when acclimating to his team in his first year last season.
“Matt (Cronin) has a good head on his shoulders and great work ethic,” said Murphy, who has been at Navarre for 15 years as athletic director and holds 35 years of baseball coaching experience. “Cronin has elevated his (pitching) velocity to 90-92 (miles-per-hour). I’m glad I don’t bat, but I’ve seen him from behind the plate. He has good command of his pitches. He uses a good curve ball and sometimes a slider. He’s working on a change-up. He’s been throwing strikes.”
Cronin’s signing day seemed to notch itself high on Murphy’s list of coaching memories.
“In 1994, I had (one of my players) sign with Florida State and another sign with Georgia Tech … we had five Division I signings that year,” Murphy said. “Matt (Cronin) is a little more polished than (those players were at the time), and he is left handed. It’s always a pleasure seeing any of our players sign.”
Off the field, Cronin has put up impressive numbers as well.
At the start of his junior year, Cronin began taking dual-enrollment classes at Pensacola State College (Midway Campus) and has produced a 3.1 unweighted GPA.
“Honestly, dual enrollment has given me a lot more free time,” Cronin said. “I’m not here for the whole school day. I’m on more of a college schedule. Studying is more challenging though.”
The University of Arkansas baseball program currently ranks No. 34 in the NCAA. The Razorbacks have made 27 appearances in the NCAA tournament and seven trips to the College World Series.
Signed letter of intent to: University of Arkansas
School year: Senior (Navarre)
Position: Pitcher (LHP)
2015 Awards: 2015 PNJ all-area pitcher of the year, 2015 Florida Athletic Coaches Association 7A all-state team.
2014-15 stats: 8-2, 68.2 innings pitched 143 strikeouts, 22 hits, 4 earned runs, 26 walks.