Beloved Avila University baseball coach dies from COVID-19, remembered for kindness

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Family and friends are remembering 46-year-old coach Daryl Cronk. The Avila University baseball coach died from COVID-19 the day after Christmas.

For 10 years Avila’s Athletic Director Shawn Summe said Cronk inspired a generation of men on their field. His sister said his memory will stay with players for years to come.

“Darrell, is the most genuine and just real person that you’ve come across in your life,” Summe said.

Carla McArthur’s little brother Daryl made her laugh every day.

“He would drive by my work every morning and honk because he lived around the corner from my work. He thought that was hilarious. He was a big joker,” McArthur said.

The 46-year-old loved baseball. He picked up the sport at the age of five and never put it down. He went on to play at Belton High School, Pittsburg State, University of Central Missouri and with the River City Rascals.

He worked as an assistant coach for some time at Rockhurst University. While at Avila, he has compiled over 250 wins, two Conference Championships, three NAIA National Tournament Appearances, five 30+ win seasons, and was a two time HAAC Coach of the Year. The 2012 team was later inducted into the Avila Athletics Hall of Fame.

“He just always played. As long as I can remember we’ve been on the ball field,” McArthur said.

“It didn’t matter if you were a Friday night starter, the top pitcher, or the or the three hole hitter. It didn’t matter if it was one of those guys, or one of the guys that probably never would see the field in a year. Darryl treated them all the same, and he loved them,” Summe said.

McArthur said the only think he loved more than the game was his family. The father of three lived for his kids Blake, Brett, and Bailee and his girlfriend Kristyn.

While he coached for Avila he also hosted a yearly summer program at the university to help train players through high school to prepare for college.

“It was never about wins and losses for him. And it was it was always about making sure that these student athletes that come here, leave here is better men, and do that for life,” Summe said.

On Thanksgiving, he began feeling sick and by the beginning of December he was hospitalized with COVID. So was McArthur and their father. Neither Cronk or McArthur were vaccinated. McArthur says after what her family has been through she is considering getting the shot. The family was hospitalized at University Hospital in Columbia.

“We would text each other back and forth all day. That day, the next day, and then on the 7th I believe is when he took a turn for the worse,” McArthur said.

She and her father recovered, but Cronk was placed on a ventilator. On Christmas, the hospital asked his family to come say goodbye.

“I kissed him several times and just begged him to show me a sign that he’s going to be with me every day,” McArthur said.

He passed away the next day. She said even though he is gone she feels his presence. Including by running into some of his players this week.

A foster mother, McArthur said Cronk not only impacted his own kids and players, but was always there for her kids too. Even if they were only with her for a short time. Cronk would bring over each one an Avila shirt or hoodie to let them know they were part of the family.

“He always made all my kids feel special. Every one of these kids took it hard,” McArthur said.

His sister and Summe say keeping coach Cronk’s legacy alive is as easy as being kind.

“We need to go on and do what he would want us to do, and that’s to live to honor him and everything that we do,” Summe said.

“He loved everyone. Everyone,” McArthur said.

Funeral services will be held at Belton High School in the Performing Arts Center, 801 W. North Ave. Belton, Missouri 64012. Visitation will be held from noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday, January 9, 2021. Funeral services will be held at 3 p.m. Interment will follow at Raymore Cemetery in Raymore, Missouri.

A Gofundme set up by the family to assist Cronk’s children financially through this hardship has raised more than $25,000 to date.

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