Crusaders in the Pros: Holy Cross Baseball

Holy Cross Athletics   08-21-2019

In 2019, four former members of the Holy Cross baseball team are playing in MLB organizations, with Crusaders appearing in nearly every level of the minors, ranging from rookie ball to Triple-A – and all four have gained a fresh perspective on the game. Continue reading to learn more about the different journeys of four Holy Cross alumni playing professional baseball.

Mike Ahmed, Arkansas Travelers
Declan Cronin, Kannapolis Intimidators
Brendan King, South Bend Cubs
Nick Lovullo, Portland Sea Dogs

Mike Ahmed, Arkansas Travelers (Double-A affiliate of Seattle Mariners)

(Photo courtesy of Mark Wagner/Arkansas Travelers)

Infielder Mike Ahmed, a two-time All-Patriot League first team selection in 2012 and 2013, has spent his 2019 season with the Double-A Arkansas Travelers after being traded to the Seattle Mariners earlier this year. Despite some injuries during his career, he has appeared in nearly 500 professional games in the Mariners and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations, playing at every level of the minor leagues.

How has your 2019 season gone? What is your favorite memory from this season so far?

MA: 2019 has been fun and challenging so far. I was traded to the Mariners in May. So, while baseball is always baseball, I had to adjust to a new organization. My favorite aspect of this has been getting to know new teammates and being part of a great clubhouse culture.

After a few seasons in the pros, how have you grown and what adjustments have you made to your game?

MA: Baseball has shown me what it means to be in a constant state of improvement. No matter what I do, I am driven to get better, while at the same time maintaining the patience to endure the process. I am always tinkering with my swing to get back to the level I know I can hit after getting hurt a couple years ago.

How does Holy Cross baseball prepare you to play professionally?

MA: Being at Holy Cross taught me how to be a professional – how to carry myself, how to prepare and how to be a part of a team.

What do you miss most about the college baseball experience, and if you could give yourself some advice when you were a student-athlete, what would you tell yourself?

MA: I miss the intensity of college baseball. Everything is a little more team-centered. Looking back, I would probably tell myself to learn to enjoy each moment and find joy in failures – learn to put value on the small victories that are part of the game.

Declan Cronin, Kannapolis Intimidators (Class A affiliate of Chicago White Sox)

Declan Cronin pictured left. (Photo Courtesy of Kannapolis Intimidators)

Right-handed pitcher Declan Cronin, who was drafted in the 36th round of the 2019 MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox shortly after his graduation from Holy Cross in May, was promoted to the Class A Kannapolis Intimidators in July. Cronin left Holy Cross with 54 career appearances (seventh-most in program history) and 156 career strikeouts (10th in program history); he was an All-Patriot League first team and Academic All-Patriot League selection his senior year.

Can you walk us through your journey so far this summer after being drafted on June 5?

DC: I was drafted on the 5th and on a plane to Phoenix 36 hours later on the morning of the 7th. In Arizona, there was a mini camp for all new players (draft picks, international free agents from the Dominican Summer League and American free agent signees). At the end of that brief camp, where we learned the White Sox organization’s philosophy on all aspects of professional baseball on and off the field, we broke. Some guys went to Great Falls, Montana, where our Advanced rookie ball team is, but I stayed in Arizona and was assigned to the AZL White Sox, the organization’s rookie-level team. After about a month pitching for the AZL team, however, I was promoted straight to our full-season Single-A affiliate in Kannapolis, North Carolina. I have been there for a little over a month at this point.

What has been the biggest adjustment or challenge playing professionally (compared to college)?

DC: One adjustment has been moving back to the bullpen. I have always been arguably more comfortable out of the bullpen, but obviously started my junior and senior years at Holy Cross. There was definitely an adjustment period in terms of recovering and building a new routine. I pitched once every seven days in college, but here in Kannapolis, I have thrown five times in the last 11 days.

What has the support been like over the last few months from your former Holy Cross teammates and coaches?

DC: The initial outpour of support in the immediate wake of my name being called in the draft was extraordinary. That brief news cycle has certainly faded, but what hasn’t waned is the support and contact from my Holy Cross teammates – years above and below me – and the coaching staff on the Hill. I still talk to Coach [George] Capen often. I owe so much of my success to people like him and my other teammates and coaches, and it is really encouraging to know their support extends past my time in Worcester.

How does Holy Cross baseball help you develop and prepare you to play professionally?

DC: The biggest asset that my experience with Holy Cross baseball gave me was a level of maturity that is so crucial to success in the game. In my four years, I dealt with the lowest lows and the highest highs, and I learned how to process both. I gained the ability to learn from failures and successes, and never to allow results (good or bad) to get in the way of constantly growing and sharpening my craft. In my first two months of pro ball, I’ve already had a college career’s worth of ups and downs, and I find myself constantly falling back on the set of skills I developed at Fitton Field.

Brendan King, South Bend Cubs (Class A affiliate of Chicago Cubs)

(Photo Courtesy of South Bend Cubs)

Right-handed pitcher Brendan King is in his third pro season with the Chicago Cubs organization after being drafted in the 20th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He has posted a 5-1 record in 19 relief appearances for the South Bend Cubs this year. King ranks fifth in Holy Cross program history in career strikeouts (170) and sixth in career innings pitched (228.1); over the course of his career, he was a two-time All-Patriot League first team honoree and was named to the Patriot League All-Tournament team three times, including being named Tournament MVP when the Crusaders won a Patriot League championship in 2017.

What is your favorite memory from this season so far?

BK: A highlight of the season was getting to play with Ben Zobrist while he was on his rehab assignment. Being teammates with him allowed me to see how a Major League player handles his business and conducts himself, and it was impressive to see the emphasis he put into both his preparation and his mental approach.

After a few seasons in the pros, how have you grown and what adjustments have you made to your game?

BK: I have learned how to pace myself emotionally and take care of myself physically. A 140-game professional season can be grueling if you do not take care of your body and your mind. Working with our strength and conditioning and mental skills coaches has helped me learn how to handle the demands of this job. This year, our coordinator began working with me on a new fastball with a higher spin rate. The technology we have makes it possible to track its progress both in side sessions and in games.

HoHow does Holy Cross baseball help prepare you to play professionally?

BK: Holy Cross prepared me both physically and mentally for professional baseball. By demanding so much of me in baseball and the classroom, Holy Cross prepared me for the busy, travel-filled schedule of professional baseball. Our emphasis on strength and conditioning helped build a foundation for performing consistently over a long season. Lastly, Coach [Greg] DiCenzo’s demanding toughness and resiliency in difficult situations sticks with me as I try to compete in a failure-filled sport.

What do you miss most about the college baseball experience, and if you could give yourself some advice when you were a student-athlete, what would you tell yourself?

BK: I miss the people on our team the most. If I could give myself advice when I was a student-athlete, I would say to appreciate the relationships you have with your teammates as much as possible because they are some of the best friends you will ever have.

Nick Lovullo, Portland Sea Dogs (Double-A affiliate of Boston Red Sox)

(Photo Courtesy of Pawtucket Red Sox)

Nick Lovullo is now in his fourth season as a member of the Red Sox organization, reaching the Triple-A level after being promoted to the Pawtucket Red Sox in May and June. Lovullo, an All-Patriot League selection in 2015, appeared in 194 career games as a Crusader – ranking sixth in program history – and is among Holy Cross’ all-time leaders in games started (190, fourth), at-bats (691, fourth), runs scored (125, fourth), hits (171, ninth), and assists (476, second).

How How has your 2019 season gone so far? Specifically, what was your experience like playing at Triple-A this year?

NL: This 2019 season has been a crazy one. I have been up and down between the three levels of A, AA, and AAA, with multiple stints at each one. I’ve experienced successes and failures pretty much at each level, so I have gained some valuable knowledge about the game because of that. Specifically, my time in Pawtucket was a blast. Being teammates and playing every day with and against so many players who have been to the big leagues has taught me a lot about how to handle myself as a player, and what I need to work on to get to that last final level. 

After a few seasons in the pros, how have you grown and what adjustments have you made to your game?

NL: Offensively, I feel like I’ve gotten a really good understanding of my abilities as a hitter. From my swing mechanics and approach, to how pitchers are going to attack me in different situations, all my experiences at the plate have taught me a lot about how to become a complete hitter. Defensively, I’ve gotten time all over the infield and am extremely comfortable no matter what position I’m playing that day. I feel like I can make any play at second base, shortstop and third base now, which was something that I couldn’t have confidently said when I first was drafted. 

HoHow does Holy Cross baseball help prepare you to play professionally?

NL: Coach D and the rest of the coaching staff at Holy Cross did an outstanding job of getting me ready to play baseball at the next level. From the time I stepped on campus to the time I was drafted, I was a completely different baseball player from a physical and mental standpoint. It was all thanks to the amount of time our staff devoted to me and each of my teammates to help us become the best possible players we could be and play up to our talents and potential. I can say with the utmost confidence that I would not be in the position I am today if it weren’t for my four years at Holy Cross. 

What do you miss most about the college baseball experience, and if you could give yourself some advice when you were a student-athlete, what would you tell yourself?

NL: The competitiveness and the close relationship I had with my teammates are two of the things I miss the most from my time in college. If I had one piece of advice to give, it would be: As a student-athlete at Holy Cross, you definitely need to know how to manage your time. You are held to the highest standard from both an athletic and academic standpoint, so make sure you are being productive at all times.




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