Ivy and Pine: Harvard Baseball Alumnus Cronin Brings Experience and Passion to LL President’s Post

John Cronin has traveled to the peak of academia and college baseball. As a graduate of Harvard and former player in the Crimson’s Division 1 baseball program, Cronin’s collegiate experience is one that evokes lasting memories.

Cronin is now passing on his substantial knowledge of baseball to aspiring Lynn athletes in his role as a president and coach in the Pine Hill Little League.

Cronin, 39, took over the reins of the Pine Hill neighborhood’s youth baseball organization for the 2020-21 season after being vice president. He began his association with PHLL as a coach when his oldest son, Michael, 10, started playing T-Ball six years ago. John and his wife, Maura, who are both attorneys, also have a son, Ryan, 8, and a daughter Emily, 4. Maura serves as PHLL’s information officer.

Under John’s leadership, Pine Hill just completed a successful season with 90 baseball players. The Pine Hill Major League Braves represented the league well, advancing to the Lynn City Series finals where the East Lynn Padres prevailed.

Pine Hill is one of the smallest of the five Little League organizations in Lynn. Cronin is aware of the perennial conversations about a merger among the programs (Pine Hill, Lynn Shore, West Lynn, East Lynn, and Wyoma) in the city.

“The idea of a merger is something that has to be considered,” said Cronin. “My biggest goal is to ensure that we are providing the greatest amount of opportunity for kids and families to be involved and play baseball in the city of Lynn, and however that can best be accomplished, I think we need to take that into account.”

Cronin likes the concept of a neighborhood baseball league, “but with dwindling enrollment numbers in baseball everywhere, the reality of the situation is that you’ve seen combinations of leagues that 15-20 years ago, you never would have expected to see merge.

Having played for Saugus National growing up, a merger with Saugus American was simply not on the horizon at that point.”

Cronin said a decision to merge should not be based solely on Lynn’s potential success in the District 16 Williamsport Tournament.

“If you’re making decisions based upon how well your All-Star team is going to do, and that’s sacrificing significantly the neighborhood nature of things, you’re doing a disservice for the people of the city,” said Cronin. “I think the pandemic has forced everyone to reevaluate where the Little League programs are in Lynn. I just want to make sure that the good people that are playing and running these leagues remain doing so.”

Merger talk aside, Cronin is excited about the future of the Pine Hill Little League organization and making connections to families in the neighborhood and having their children enjoy the sport of baseball at Gallagher Park and Chris Spagnoli Field.

“In Pine Hill, we’ve had a lot of new T-Ball players and new coaches,” said Cronin. “I like to think we’ve done a good job of generating interest in Pine Hill Little League and making baseball a fun sport to play for all.”

Arriving in Lynn After Law School

John and Maura Cronin moved to Lynn in 2009, having previously lived in Waltham following their respective graduations from the Suffolk University and Boston College law schools.

“I grew up in Saugus and my wife is from Malden,” said John, who is the son of Jim and Kathleen Cronin. “I was familiar with the Pine Hill neighborhood because a good friend of mine, Steve Harrington, lived in this neighborhood so I had spent some time here. His parents still live in Pine Hill. Steve is now a U.S. Navy pilot.”

High School Baseball at MC and then on to Harvard

John Cronin began playing baseball in the Saugus National Little League and was selected to the All-Star team. He continued his baseball career at Malden Catholic High School, where he also played ice hockey.

He earned the Lancers’ starting varsity first baseman’s position and led the team in RBIs his senior year.

“We were a good team and actually benefited when we got a couple of kids from Don Bosco after that school closed,” recalled the 5-foot-11-inch scholar-athlete. “That year (1999) BC High won the Catholic Conference and St. John’s Prep ended up winning the state title, but we nabbed wins against both schools during the season. I do remember finally beating St. John’s Prep. It was the fourth or fifth time we had played them in my two years on varsity, and that was huge to get a regular-season win against those guys.  Brian Lentz, Ryan Leahy, Eric Shepperson, Jake Marsello, and Duncan Webb were on that team.”

To his credit, in addition to excelling in sports, John Cronin was the valedictorian of the Malden Catholic Class of 1999.

He was accepted to Harvard College and as a freshman, he earned a spot on the Crimson’s junior varsity baseball team, playing games at O’Donnell Field, which is named after Malden Catholic and Harvard graduate Joe O’Donnell. Cronin eventually made it all the way to Fenway Park for Harvard’s appearance in the Beanpot Baseball Tournament.

“It was great to keep in a real formal and competitive way my contact with baseball while at Harvard,” said Cronin. “The biggest thrill was suiting up for Harvard in the Baseball Beanpot. To be in uniform at Fenway was a thrill. It was a lot of fun.”

Cronin received his degree in American History from Harvard and went on to attend Suffolk Law School. After interning at the Middlesex County DA’s office, he worked at the DA’s office for four years as an assistant district attorney. He took a job in municipal insurance defense at a private law firm before moving on to his current position at the state Department of Unemployment where he is an attorney in the Legal Department. His wife, Maura, a graduate of prestigious Brandeis University, is a staff attorney for the Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

With John Cronin and Maura Cronin serving as officers in the Pine Hill Little League and aided by a dedicated group of parents and volunteers, the future of that organization looks very bright.

From Harvard to the Hill, it’s been a rewarding journey for John Cronin.

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