By Thomas Joyce
Posted Jul. 21, 2016 at 6:14 AM
If your father played in the NBA, your mother was on the U.S. National Freestyle ski team, and one of your uncles played in the NFL, your career would be rather easy to predict.
When this is considered, it makes sense that Brentwood native Carson Cross is a pro baseball player. His father, Jeff, played for the Los Angeles Clippers; his mother, Carol represented the country at the highest stage on skis; and his uncle, Justin, was an offensive lineman for the Buffalo Bills.
The starting pitcher, who is in his second summer with the State College Spikes (St. Louis Cardinals Short-Season A minor league affiliate), is 2-3 with a 3.79 ERA in six starts this season.
Once Cross found out his family’s athletic past, he figured he would be able to play one for a living as well.
“I just had fun playing outside as a kid all the time,” he said. “I had fun playing with the neighbors. Once I came to the age where I realized my parents were athletic, too, I realized it could be my path. It kind of came naturally. It wasn’t anything I planned too much.”
With a 6-foot-10 father, Cross said he looks short next to him. But still, 6-foot-5 is not bad.
“It’s a good mix to have that height and a mom who was very athletic,” he said. “It’s a good combination. I’m pretty blessed.”
Cross had the size and genetics to play whatever sport he chose. And while he played basketball until his junior year and skied until his pro baseball contract prohibited him from doing so, it came down to football and baseball.
Initially, Cross, who was a quarterback, safety and long snapper at Exeter High School, appeared to be headed toward a career in football. He had spoken with a few teams including the University of Maine and University of New Hampshire, and the interest was mutual. But he also gained attention on the diamond as a rising senior.
“They started talking about scholarships and things like that,” Cross said. “I realized that option would work well to get my education and to open doors that would not have been open otherwise.”
Once the scholarships became a factor, baseball became his clear choice. And he does not regret the decision.
“Baseball was sort of more laid back, in-the-moment competition, an everyday sport; whereas, football is year-round and then you play 10 games,” Cross said. “For me, I like competing on a more regular basis.”
Instead of UNH or UMaine, Cross found himself pitching for the University of Connecticut, where he was teammates with Boston Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes, Houston Astros outfielder George Springer, Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed and Colorado Rockies reliever Scott Oberg.
Going 10-2 with a 2.29 ERA in 15 starts at UConn in the 2015 spring season while striking out 108 batters in 106 innings helped Cross gain the Cardinals’ attention. The team, who the Red Sox beat in the 2004 and 2013 World Series, selected the lifelong Red Sox fan in the 14th round of last year’s MLB draft.
“It’s really cool,” he said. “Growing up as a Sox fan, I loved watching all those World Series games, all those playoff games. I was a big fan of guys like Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett.
“But then to join the Cardinals organization,” he added, “and see the same kinds of personalities on that team and to be around those guys in Spring Training — who have pitched at the highest level and can give you really good advice — is really cool as well.”