Hot-hitting Jacob Gonzalez hoping to forge own MLB path
SCOTTSDALE – An orange glow can be seen during the summer nights at Scottsdale Stadium. It comes not from the setting sun but from the Arizona League Giants jersey worn by Jacob Gonzalez.
The humble son of Diamondbacks World Series hero Luis Gonzalez is tearing up Major League Baseball’s low key summer league as he follows in his father’s footsteps of chasing a career in America’s pastime.
Like father, like son.
Gonzalez was drafted in the second round of this year’s MLB draft by the San Francisco Giants and began his path in the minor leagues by playing summer ball in the Valley.
His father envisioned him getting to this point and beyond someday.
“He’s grown up in a big league locker room his whole life,” said Gonzalez, who is well-known in Arizona for his 2001 World Series heroics with the Diamondbacks. “Just at an early age he has always wanted to come to the ballpark. Be around the players. Be in the locker room.”
Jacob, 19, has played baseball since an early age and often traveled with his father during his career. He was lucky enough to secure an all-inclusive front row view of the life of a pro player, which in turn fueled his passion for the game. Although Luis, nicknamed Gonzo, was an accomplished major leaguer, Jacob said he never felt compelled to play the sport.
“He never forced it on me, but I’d go out there and we’d play around in the outfield at all of the major league stadiums,” Jacob said. “He’d let me hit in the outfield and everything and hang out in the clubhouses and I guess that’s how I just grew to love the game.”
Once Jacob, one-third of the Gonzalez triplets, began playing baseball at Chaparral High School, his raw talent and skills were on display, and that’s where he began to show his potential.
During three seasons playing for the Firebirds, he batted .429 with 19 home runs and 118 RBI, according to MaxPreps.com. Those stats along with his 6-foot-4 frame and defensive ability at third base caught the attention scouts.
Being the son of Luis Gonzalez did not hurt, either.
His high ceiling contributed to being drafted right out of high school, and he was faced with a significant life decision. He committed to Texas Christian University before draft day, so it was either college or the minor leagues.
He chose the Giants.
“That was a hard decision for me and my family. We really sat down and talked about it,” Gonzalez said. “I thought I was ready to play mentally and physically. My parents agreed with me and they were behind me 100 percent.”
Luis, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Houston Astros in 1988 after attending college at the University of South Alabama, believed Jacob had great opportunities either way, but he knew all his son wanted was to play baseball.
“I think in the bottom of his heart, he knew what he really wanted to do and that was play baseball each and every day,” Luis said. “He’s getting to live out his dream right now.”
Going into draft night, Gonzalez was ranked as the 125th-best player overall. With the 58th pick in the second round, the Giants selected the Scottsdale native, which he called a “pretty special feeling.”
Luis reflected on the experience of seeing his son drafted.
“Sitting in the living room with Jacob, his sisters, my wife, our family, a bunch of friends in there and not knowing what was going to happen and then to hear the San Francisco Giants choose him, it was a pretty exciting time in our household,” said Gonzalez, 49, the senior adviser for the Diamondbacks.
Even though Jacob grew up a Diamondbacks fan watching his dad play for the team for eight seasons, including its lone championship season, he was not necessarily hoping Arizona chose him.
“It would have been cool to play in the same system, but I was super happy with where I was,” Jacob said. “I got put in the right situation for sure, so I am really happy with where I ended up.”
Surprisingly, Luis preferred that Jacob be selected by another team as well.
“The pressure and the stress that he would have gone through and probably me, too, with him playing in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization would have been probably a lot more for me than him, so things work out for a reason,” Luis said.
With Jacob now playing for an organization that is a division rival to Luis’ longtime team, one might think there could be bad blood. Think again.
Luis spoke highly of the Giants organization, but it didn’t stop him from having some fun.
“He (Luis) has got a sign in our house that said like ‘Our house is divided but our hearts are united’ and it has a Giants symbol on one side and a Diamondbacks on the other one. It’s pretty funny. He jokes around about it, but he roots for me every time I go out there,” Jacob said.
“He’s an AZL Giants fan I guess,” Jacob mused.
The Arizona League is already halfway through its short season, and Gonzalez is second on the team and seventh in the league with a .346 batting average. He has started strong, which he credits to being aggressive at the plate.
“I just came out here and I told myself that I was going to keep my same approach,” Gonzalez said. “Try to be as aggressive as possible and still look for a pitch that I wanted to hit. It worked out well for me to start out.”
Luis credited his quick success to something else that can be difficult to find with someone his son’s age.
“I think his maturity level helps. He enjoys doing this. This is something he has wanted to do since he was a little kid running around here at the ballpark (Chase Field),” Luis said. “I’m proud of him.”
Even though a big stage awaits Jacob, he is anticipating something more than just playing baseball.
“I’m looking forward just to the relationships you build because it’s already pretty fun hanging out with all the Latin guys and hanging out with some of the college guys,” he said. “Meeting guys from all over. Kind of sharing stories about what we have all played versus and seen.”
Both Luis and Jacob have had success in the Valley.
Like father, like son.
If the adage remains true, Jacob has a pretty good career in his future. The only difference: It just may be with that one division rival in Northern California.
“I just want to try and win as much as I can at every level,” Gonzalez said. “Just try to compete my best and win each day and try to win championships.”