May 1, 2009

Representing Mexico a Dream Come True for Gonzalez

By John Philip Wyllie

Prior to the start of this so far surprising San Diego Padres season Edgar Gonzalez made a very gutsy decision. With his position on the Padres roster very much in doubt Gonzalez opted to forego a portion of the team’s spring training in Peoria and play instead for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. After nine years of toiling in the minor leagues and nearly giving up, Gonzalez battled his way a year ago on to the Padres roster and realized his dream of playing Major League baseball alongside his brother Adrian. It seemed incomprehensible to many that Gonzalez would risk all of that to play for a few weeks on Mexico’s national team.

“You don’t know how many times you are going to get an opportunity like that to play in the World Baseball Classic on the same team as your brother,” Gonzalez said prior to a recent game at Petco Park. “I saw representing my country as something that I might not ever be able to do again. So, I decided to go do it. I thought whatever happens, happens. I figured (the Padres) knew what I could do already. (Prior to leaving) I talked to Kevin Towers and Buddy Black and they both told me to go enjoy it. Fortunately, it worked out for the best.”

In retrospect, Gonzalez feels like he made the right decision.

“I got a lot of goose bumps when I walked out on the field for the first time wearing that Mexico jersey in Mexico City. It was pretty exciting. We were not just representing a city like we do in San Diego, we were representing the entire country and to do that alongside of my brother was pretty special.”

Playing for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic was actually the second time during the off-season that the Gonzalez brothers joined forces. Before the tournament began they were playing together in the Mexican League for the Mazatlan Venados.

“We have been doing that for a long time and this season we decided to go back and try to win a championship. The team down there had been really nice to us before we reached this level so we went back to try to win them a championship and that worked out.”

Last season, Gonzalez was a frequent starter at second base. This season with the acquisition of former World Series MVP second baseman David Eckstein, Gonzalez has had to look elsewhere for playing time. Fortunately, Gonzalez is versatile enough to play just about anywhere other than behind the plate and on the mound. But playing multiple positions remains a challenge.

“At first (adjusting to a new position) is a little tough, but you start getting used to it and you get into a rhythm. In practice I take ground balls everywhere and fly balls everywhere. On certain days I work at different positions. There is a lot of work to be done (when you are playing multiple positions), but I try not to overwork myself. At third you get the balls hit very hard at you. At second, you have a little more time to react.”

While he has seen his role from last year diminished Gonzalez remains positive, knows it is long season and that he will get plenty of opportunity.

“I am still pinch hitting pretty much every day and getting a game in here and there. I am ready to go whenever they want me to be. I am going to be prepared whenever anybody comes down with an injury. They know what I can do. I am just trying to help the team win.”

Edgar and Adrian Gonzalez will host the 14th Annual Eastlake Educational Foundation Golf Tournament on May 18 at the Eastlake Country Club. The event will raise funds benefiting students at their alma mater, Eastlake High School. www.EEFKIDS.ORG/GOLF

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