Gonzalez shaping baseball’s stars of tomorrow
He doesn’t strike the average onlooker as a former Major Leaguer. But the impact Luis Gonzalez made on the game of baseball is unmistakable, his place in history is secure and – despite his unassuming looks – he is a recognizable figure for fans.
Fans know him as the offensive star of the 2001 World Champion Diamondbacks – the man with 57 home runs and the Game 7 game-winning hit off Mariano Rivera. They remember his 30 game-hitting streak (a bat from which resides in Cooperstown along with his Game 7 bat). In Arizona, he’s the first player to have his number retired and he’s now immortalized each during each D-backs home game as the racing Gonzo – a more than eight-foot tall caricature of the 19-year vet – that competes in against Mark Grace, Randy Johnson and Matt Williams.
This summer he’ll serve as the All-Star Game Ambassador when the Mid-Summer Classic heads to Chase Field in Phoenix. But on Monday, Gonzo sported a little gray stubble on his face and an Arizona T-Rex’s T-shirt while at the Hall of Fame with his son’s Little League team for the second straight year.
“There are a lot of hopes and dreams in baseball,” Gonzalez said. “That’s why it’s so exciting to bring the kids. It’s exciting to be able to show them your artifacts and show them you actually did something in the game.”
Gonzalez, his brother Rex and a former minor league teammate of Rex’s coach the T-Rexes who are competing in a weeklong tournament at nearby Cooperstown Dreams Park. Like last summer, Gonzalez and the T-Rexes met with Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson before touring the Museum.
Idelson briefed the team on the Hall’s history and purpose before telling them about the importance of character, integrity and good sportsmanship in baseball. After posing for a few photos with the young ballplayers, Idelson wished them luck for the remainder of their week in Cooperstown and told them to enjoy the Museum.
“It gives these young kids a chance to come out and see the history,” Gonzalez said. “When they leave here, it’s amazing to see how they appreciate everything. This is the history of the game and it means a lot to them.”
Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.