By the time you read this, more than likely, the World Series will be over. Nonetheless, this really isn't about whether the Rangers won or lost. (Although I'll probably be doing cartwheels if they win).
This is about a lefty from Robstown who is living the life that little leaguers across the country often dream about.
I'll be honest, the rich tradition of Robstown baseball is something I am still learning each day. The extent of my knowledge before moving to the area was the painting at Cotton Picker baseball field that reads, “State Champions 1991 and 1992.” Obviously, I knew they were good. But I didn't know there was more than just a couple of state championships.
My sports expertise has always been sharpest when it comes to football. But I have to say last season, the baseball scene in South Texas amazed me. There were just as many, if not more, people in the baseball stadium as football. Seeing this made me realize that baseball is what South Texas is all about. Four area teams playing for a state title later, I'm frequently asking people to tell me more about their baseball background.
The first I heard of Mike Gonzalez was when I did a feature story on Robstown's Mike Velasquez before he left for San Jacinto Junior College. While interviewing him, I was confused why he wanted to go to a junior college instead of a Division I University. To me, playing Division I is the highest an athlete can get. But that's my football side talking.
“Look at the programming,” Velasquez told me. “Mike Gonzalez played at San Jac for a year. Now he's pitching for the Orioles.”
The Orioles? Like THE Orioles? The ones from Baltimore?
The more I talked to Velasquez, the more I realized that what he saw in a former Robstown ace was what he was trying to achieve. He was trying to go pro sooner than later. And he had just as good a shot to do so.
After Gonzalez's trade to the Rangers and the start of the postseason, I received a call from a woman in Robstown.
“Is this the Sport Guy?” she asked.
“Yes ma'am,” I responded.
“I want to hear more about Mike Gonzalez,” she said. “If the Rangers win, do you know if he gets a World Series ring?”
I assured her that I would make an effort to speak with Gonzalez and find out.
In the past few weeks, I have been taking steps to do just that, once the World Series ends.
But while taking these steps I couldn't help but wonder what a great feeling it must be for Robstown to see Gonzalez on TV, especially the current RHS baseball players.
The reality is that it goes back to a phone conversation I had with former Robstown coach Steve Castro.
“(Gonzalez) being there should motivate our young players,” he said. “They sometimes think that the odds are against them. But baseball can be something that can help them be successful.”
Whether it's getting them an education or living out the Mike Gonzalez dream, baseball does just that for our area's ballplayers.
Matt Cardenas is a sports reporter for the Nueces County Record Star. Readers may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.