July 20, 2001

Next time Padres see Benji Gil, may be as a Brave

By John Philip Wyllie

Anaheim Angels utility infielder Benji Gil, with the hat on, poses with his (l-r) brother Gilbert, dad Roberto and his sister Sarali.




Among the many San Diego county residents on hand for Sunday's Padres-Angels game at Anaheim's Edison Field were a contingent of about 20 members of the same family. Unlike the majority of those making the trek however, these were not Padre fans. They had come to see their brother, son, nephew or uncle, Benji Gil play for the Anaheim Angels. And while on this particular day, Gil was not in the lineup, they enjoyed visiting after the game with the Tijuana-born, Chula Vista-raised utility infielder.

"There are a lot of pluses in playing for the Angels and I like living close to home," said Gil who despite his successful eleven year professional career remains well-grounded and down to earth. "My family played an instrumental part in helping me to not let things go to my head," Gil said.

If the trade rumors that have been blowing for several weeks turn out to be true, it might be the last time this season that Gil's extended family will be able to see him play in Anaheim.

The Atlanta Braves are rumored to be interested in his services and Gil would jump at the chance to become an every day starter. "If I end up somewhere else, it is likely to be a better situation than this (in terms of more playing time)." So, while on one hand, Gil would love to stay in Anaheim, if he could gain starting status by going elsewhere, he would.

Gil is at a loss to explain why he is not starting for the Angels. His average of .342 ties him for the team lead with Shawn Wooten and in his last six appearances, Gil has clouted five home runs.

"At the beginning of the season, I was given the impression that I would have an opportunity to be the starting shortstop," Gil said. "For whatever reason, that has not been the case." After briefly trying Gil at shortstop earlier in the year, Angels manager, Mike Scioscia opted for rookie, David Eckstein instead. And while the dimunitive Eckstein surpassed expectations early in the season, he has of late been mired in a hitting slump. Despite that fact, Eckstein, hitting at .268, remains in the lineup and Gil remains the utility infielder, filling in for Eckstein, at second or sometimes at first.

How Gil's situation will finally be resolved is anybody's guess, but with the July 31 trading deadline fast approaching, the option of restarting his career in Atlanta or elsewhere will have to materialize quickly or wait until the off-season. In the meantime, Gil can do little but wait and enjoy the advantage of playing close to his family, at least for now.

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