By Eric Butler
Brian Cronk is a former minor league baseball player in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. But he’s also an artist — and we’re not talking about the walks he’s drawn on the diamond.
Blank sheets of paper in Cronk’s hands often turn into sketches. Most are composites of already existing characters, but with a twist.
Currently, Cronk is toying with a sketch of Yosemite Sam, a Warner Brothers’ cartoon character, holding a baseball bat — something that may be turned into a Wildcats’ baseball T-shirt logo down the line.
“I kind of need to see something before I can redraw it. It’s just something I enjoy doing in my free time,” Cronk said.
He has designed two tattoos on his arms and painted several figurines on his daughter’s bedroom wall.
“It’s personal — I feel good about myself. I feel like I’m giving something to my daughter, to my wife,” he said.
When Cronk, 25, is not at the baseball field with the Wildcats or in his portable building teaching history at the high school, he keeps himself busy by taking classes at Eastern New Mexico University. He’s aiming for a master’s degree in sports administration.
A native of Arizona, Cronk graduated from Cottonwood Mingus High School and then went to Glendale Community College before latching on at Eastern New Mexico University from 1995-1997.
He was drafted out of ENMU by the Pirates in the 45th round of the amateur baseball draft and played a summer of rookie ball in Bradenton, Florida.
“He’s able to communicate with our players well,” Clovis High baseball coach Shane Shallenberger said. “He has many examples that he can relate to them and show them, with his experiences that he’s had.”
Primarily an outfielder or third baseman by trade, Cronk saw an opportunity to get more playing time in the minor leagues by switching to first base.
That maneuver worked temporarily until he was let go by the Pirates organization the following spring.
“The manager there told me I should go try to hook on with an independent team,” said Cronk, who ended up returning to Portales to finish a history degree in 2000.
“Sometimes I think maybe I shoud have, because you never know,” Cronk said.
“But I’m glad I came back. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have gotten married and started the family.”
And the locals may not have been introduced to his art work.
With the help of Shallenberger and boys soccer coach Shaun Gill, Cronk drew and painted a Wildcats’ emblem in the locker room at Bell Park.
“I went ahead and designed it and toyed with it in the course of three or four weeks,” Cronk said. “It’s a power-cat with the seams of a baseball going through it. When it comes to my artwork, I might redesign something 10 or 12 times before I get it where I want it to be.
“That cat, we had to go back and tweak stuff when we were done,” he adds.
“And it still doesn’t look right to me. I mean, it looks good, but it still doesn’t look right.”