June 13, 2008

Gonzalez Getting His Shot

By John Philip Wyllie

Former SDSU Aztec and Mexican League star Edgar Gonzalez nearly gave up on his dream of playing Major League baseball, but now all the years of toil and frustration are finally paying off for the Padres new middle infielder. Eclipsed by the enormous shadow of his brother Adrian, Edgar Gonzalez, who is four years Adrian’s senior, has spent most of the last decade bouncing from one minor league club to the next awaiting his shot. He finally got the call on May 12 and he is determined to make the most of it.

“There was at least twice that I was thinking about packing it in,” Gonzalez said prior to Tuesday’s series opener against the Dodgers. “It is hard in the minor leagues. You don’t get paid much. If it wasn’t for my parents helping me economically, I wouldn’t have been able to make it. Playing professional baseball in the minor leagues is way different from playing it in the Major League.”

Budgetary constraints often result in long bus trips or flights that have the players jet-lagged and exhausted before they even take the field. The compensation is just a fraction of what the players get on the parent club. Prior to embarking on his professional career he played at San Diego State for Jim Dietz. It was one of many stepping stones that helped him get to where he is today.

“When I got out of high school I was only 150 pounds. I didn’t think I had a shot at playing professional baseball because of how little and skinny I was. In college, I started developing and I started hitting the ball pretty well. I learned a lot there and I started getting better. I played shortstop and it was a good experience for me. Coach Dietz has retired, but I have gone back to see assistant coach, Rusty Filter and we know (current coach) Tony Gwynn pretty well. We have hit with him in the off-season.”

Gonzalez’s maturation process continued in Mexico and had him at times playing alongside his brother, Adrian.

“Going to Mexico the first time I became a much better hitter. I learned there that I could play with anyone. In Mexico, you play against a lot of pitchers that have been successful in the big leagues. When you do well against them you know that you can make it in the big leagues. I started getting more confident after that and when I returned to the U.S., I had my best years in Triple A. Playing with my brother and playing against those guys with big league experience is where I learned the most. There is a lot of good talent in Mexico, but not throughout each whole team.”

Getting to the Major Leagues is only half the battle for Gonzalez. Proving that he belongs there is his new challenge. He is off to a good start. In his first 50 Major League at bats he hit .280 with four RBIs and two doubles. He has also made a few highlight reel plays while filling in at second base.

“Once you get here, you don’t want to go back down because there is a big difference between playing here and playing there. It is a humbling experience. Everything is good, but you still know that you can’t take it for granted. It might last a long time or it might not. You never know. I am trying to take advantage of this situation as much as I can. I am going to keep working hard like I have always done.”

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