By Jesse Wolfersberger: Freedom Newspapers
After five years as an assistant coach for the Clovis baseball team, Brian Cronk has headed out on his own, taking the reins as head coach at Herschi High School in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Cronk has had many stops in his baseball journey, but the latest one will present his biggest challenge as he tries to build a winning baseball program at a school that has not won a game in two years.
“There are good kids here,” Cronk said. “Just not too many baseball players.”
Cronk, a former college and minor league infielder, thought at 28 the timing was right to try his hand at being a head coach.
“I didn’t want to live my life as an assistant,” Cronk said. “I thought, ‘What would it be like to be a head coach?’ I’m young and my family isn’t really settled down yet, so if I try it for a few years and don’t like it, we can always do something else.”
Clovis head coach Shane Shallenberger said he is proud of his former assistant.
“I’m very happy for him,” Shallenberger said. “He gets along with players and he has a vast knowlege of the game. He’s got a great resume. I think he’ll make a fine head coach.”
Shallenberger said he had a lengthy phone conversation with Cronk after he accepted the job at Hirschi.
“I talked for him for a couple hours,” Shallenberger said. “I told him not to expect too much in the first year, that it might take some time to get quality players in there. I told him that losing is easy and winning is hard. ”
“He’s ready,” Shallenberger added.
In the past two seasons, Herschi is 0-52. Cronk said last year the Huskies only had enough players to field a varsity team, and they play a tough 3A schedule, so there is a lot of work to be done.
“We are going to start at the ground level,” Cronk said. “We need to learn the basics and start building a program from the bottom up.”
Hirschi’s new coach said he only wants players who are serious about learning the game.
“I’ll play with nine players for the whole season if that’s all I can get,” Cronk said. “I want kids who are going to devote their time and effort. I tell them, ‘If you don’t want to be here, then you should go home.’”
Cronk said his players listen closely to him because they know he has a baseball background.
“They are intregued by my history,” Cronk said. “They think, ‘Maybe this guy knows what he’s talking about.’”
Cronk played junior college ball in Glendale, Ariz., then played two years at Eastern New Mexico. He was drafted to the Pittsburgh Pirates, playing in their minor league organization for two seasons.
He starting his coaching career as an assistant for ENMU.
In his second year in the minors, Cronk started thinking less about playing the game and more about coaching it. He said he started paying more attention to the coaches and the decisions they made during a game.
Cronk said he has learned things at each level that he will bring to the bench at Hirschi.
“I pulled some of the concepts and theories from each of the teams that I’ve played on or coached,” he said. “You try and make them your own.”
Cronk thinks the key to building a successful team is the players believing in the coach’s program.
“I want them to buy into my philosophies,” Cronk said. “I teach hard work, not to cheat yourself, and discipline. The biggest thing is discipline.”
While Cronk said the Huskies aren’t ready to compete for a state title, he thinks they will be a much better team than they were the last two years.
“I want us to be fundamenially sound,” Cronk said. “I want us to make strides in the right direction and go from there. We’re gonna compete.”
Exposure, Cronk said, is what will bring in talented players.
“If we start playing good baseball, and we run a good program,” Cronk said, “people are going to start saying, ‘Hirschi actually has a baseball team.’”