Former TCU players stay close to program, Schlossnagle, whether they call him coach or Jim

Proud doesn’t really do it justice.

For TCU baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle, seeing his former players reach the big leagues elicits a mixture of pride, happiness and appreciation.

Schlossnagle visited with two former Horned Frogs Kevin Cron and Alex Young, both of whom recently made their major league debuts with the Arizona Diamondbacks, before Wednesday’s game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park. The D-Backs swept the two-game series, which included Young earning the win Tuesday and Cron hitting a three-run homer on Wednesday.

“It’s pretty awesome to see those guys play in the same game,” Schlossnagle said. “They’re not that far removed from playing at TCU.”

Both players have lived in DFW in the off-season since starting their pro careers, although Cron and his wife are soon moving to Scottsdale, Ariz.

Cron was called up from Triple-A Reno in late May and has five homers in 27 games. The left-hander Young was called up on June 27 and is 3-0 with 0.96 ERA in his first 18 2/3 innings.

“It’s probably something that is pretty unique,” Cron said. “We’re both obviously pretty excited to be here. It’s been cool to watch his success early on.”

Former TCU pitcher Stefan Crichton is also a reliever for Reno, which adds to the familial Frog feeling, He made his MLB debut in 2017 with the Orioles and was up with the D-Backs for a month until June 26. He pitched well in seven of eight appearances, holding opponents scoreless over 8 1/3 innings. He had one rough outing on June 16 in which he allowed five runs in 1 2/3 innings. He could eventually return to the Arizona bullpen which would make the D-Backs’ roster 12 percent Horned Frogs.

Schlossnagle looks forward to evolving relationships with his former players, not just the ones who go on to find professional success. Between 15 and 25 former Frogs return to the TCU campus during the off-season to prepare for spring training. Having MLB All-Stars such as the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter remaining so close to the program, of course, helps attracts recruits on multiple levels.

“That’s the part of the relationship you look forward to,” Schlossnagle said. “I tell them when they’re playing for us, ‘Hey, we can never be in the same establishment. But there may come a day where we get to have a beer together,’ or something like that. I look forward to that kind of relationship. That’s the good stuff.”

Former players keep coming back for a lot of reasons, but their love of the city of Fort Worth looms large. Plus, they appreciate the instruction of TCU’s long time strength and conditioning coach Zach Dechant, who Schlossnagle calls the best in the country.

“They have a lot of allegiance to TCU and they trust [Dechant],” he said. “Our place is open to them so they know they can hit and throw. We give them a locker and gear. I want them to feel like they’re coming home because that is home.”

For some, Schlossnagle will always remain “coach.” Others eventually transition into calling him Jim.

“Matt Carpenter still calls me coach. He’s never, ever called me anything other than coach. Others call me Jim and that’s fine. They’re grown men,” he said.

Young, who was drafted in the 32nd round by the Rangers out of high school in 2012, attended TCU instead. After his junior season in 2015, he was drafted in the second round by Arizona.

“He’s still Coach Schloss to me. He’s one of those guys who’s super intimidating so I don’t know if I’d be able to call him Jim,” he said. Both Young and Cron keep an eye on how the Frogs are doing during the season and love being ambassadors of the program.

“To actually be here [in the big leagues] is pretty awesome,” Young said. “A lot of us are starting to come up now. It helps the TCU program a lot, which is awesome.”

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.