Edgar Gonzalez realizes the dream

Edgar Gonzalez realizes the dream

PORTLAND, OR: When you are a 30th-round pick - if you get a free pair of spikes from the team that drafted you, well then you just received your signing bonus. The opportunities to make the big leagues, and getting on the short-season minor league team is no picnic either – close to winning the lottery.

But one thing you will be given is a chance. A chance. If you perform, you could someday be a big league baseball player.

In 2000, Edgar Gonzalez was the 30th-round pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and took his shot. This year, he began his ninth year in the minor leagues, never having played a game in the majors, despite a career batting average of .297 and hitting .308 last year for the Memphis Redbirds in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

A fluke?

Not really, the year before he hit .392 in 46 games with Albuquerque Isotopes (AAA) and with a .445 career slugging percentage he has surprising pop for a guy with a slight frame and has played nearly every position on the field. Edgar's problem is the same for quite a few talented players in Triple-A; he just needed to be in the right place at the right time with the right organization.

This winter, in part to have a chance to play with his little brother Adrian Gonzalez, Edgar signed with the Padres, hoping they would be the right organization. Despite a strong spring, the Padres elected to go with Rule V selection Callix Crabbe.

On May 12, the Padres punched Edgar's lottery ticket and gave him the call to the majors, designating Crabbe for assignment and opening a roster spot. He was hitting .293/.392/.451 when he was called up from Portland, mainly playing right field, but also logging in time at third, first, second, left and DH. He was also hitting .400 as a pinch hitter in five at-bats.

Even though the Padres didn't win, Edgar singled in his first major league at-bat, collecting an RBI while going 1-for-2 in his first major league game.

First since we've never interviewed you before could you give us a little background on yourself?

Edgar Gonzalez: I went to East Lake High School in San Diego, the same as Adrian. Then I went to San Diego State out of high school, went there for four years and redshirted one. I got drafted out of SDSU as a junior and began my career in 2000 in the Hudson Valley with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

You were a 30th-round draft pick, so you really had to work for everything. What was the biggest adjustment going from college to the professional game?

Edgar Gonzalez: My first year was difficult just with the wood bat but then I was ok after that. It is tough being such a low round pick because you have to prove yourself every year. I can remember in 2001 I hit .332 and led the league in hitting, but when I went up to the next level, guys that I outhit by 50 or 60 points were playing over me. So I had to learn to adjust to that.

You have a .297/.376/.445 career line over nine years, including some pretty good seasons in AAA. In seems like with those numbers you should have been given a shot at the big leagues years ago. You come across as a pretty relaxed person, how do you stay so positive?

Edgar Gonzalez: If you compare the numbers I've hit something around .330 since I've come to AAA. I think it's just for me it's out of my control and that God controls all of it. I know the only thing I can do is keep working hard and that one day I'll get my chance and when I do I'll take advantage of it. Maybe if I would have gotten a shot earlier I might not have been ready. Hopefully when I do get my chance I'll be up there to stay.

It must have been a huge thrill to sign with your hometown team and a chance to play with your brother. You had a good spring, hitting .323 and you're putting up solid numbers in Portland. What did you work on in the off-season to improve your hitting?

Edgar Gonzalez: I didn't really work on anything different. Adrian and I worked out really hard with the weights, and then I played winter ball in Mazatlan, which really helped me. Since I've started to going to winter ball, I went from hitting around .290 to around a .320 career hitter. It helped me learn a lot more about the game – that it's more about winning than what your personal numbers are. When you start winning your personal numbers will come along.

There seems to be some serious pressure in the Mexican winter leagues, it's not just a place to work on some things.

Edgar Gonzalez: Oh yeah, it's all about winning. It doesn't matter what you're numbers are. If the team wins, the management and fans are happy. That way, I'm prepared when spring training comes around. One of the big reasons I came to San Diego was that I thought I could get an opportunity here, and it would be great to play with Adrian.

It seems your path to the majors is as a utility player and a big part of being a utility player is the ability to play shortstop. With Oscar Robles moving on are you going to try to ask to play a little more shortstop?

Edgar Gonzalez: Yeah, I played about six games in spring training so they know I can play there. When I came here, they told me I was going to play some short too. Right now, they need some help in the outfield, so I've been playing out in right – which has helped me since I haven't played the outfield that much in the past. But I believe I can play anywhere in the infield or outfield.

You got have cannon to play out there in right field, so you must have a pretty good arm?

Edgar Gonzalez: [laughs] No, no the main thing is to be accurate.

We interviewed Edgar just prior to his big league call-up.

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