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Snappers’ Mike Gonzales chases major league dream

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THOMAS J. MILLER
July 20, 2011
— At 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, Beloit Snapper first baseman Mike Gonzales could have went to college to play football or basketball.

While growing up in Brentwood, Calif.—a city of about 50,000 near San Francisco, Gonzales earned state high school honors as an offensive tackle and defensive end.


But “Gonzo” knew his future was on the baseball field. It was all in the bloodlines.


The Boston Red Sox selected Mike’s father, Pete Gonzales, in the fifth round of the 1981 draft.


His grandfather, Joe Gonzales, also had played in the minor leagues.


So Mike enrolled at Diablo Valley College where he spent two years, and like his father and grandfather, is now aiming for the major leagues.


Gonzales is in his second season with the Snappers. The just-turned 23-year-old battled injuries last season, but has come on strong this year.


Gonzales is hitting .295 with 13 homers and 64 homers in 86 games. His .295 average is the 13th best in the league, while his 13 homers rank in the top 10.


The left-handed hitter is batting .309 against right-handers and .250 against lefties.


“I feel pretty good,” Gonzales said last week. “I hope it carries through the rest of the season. I hope to help get us into the playoffs.”


After being named the MVP of the 300-some-school California junior college level, Gonzales was picked in the ninth round of the 2008 June draft by the Twins.


After hitting .331 in 41 games in the Gulf Coast League, he batted .304 in 56 games at Elizabethton in the Appalachian League.


Then he struggled in his first season at Beloit. While he did hit 13 homers with 52 RBIs in 94 games, he struck out 107 times.


The change of climate had nothing to do with it. Gonzales played on youth traveling teams that competed throughout the country. A nagging injury was a factor last season.


He came back 30 pounds lighter this season, and completely healthy.


“That’s something that I did myself,” Gonzales said of his weight loss. “I wanted to do it. I feel a lot quicker, and I have a lot more energy.”


Gonzales was one of three Snappers to earn a spot on the Western Division squad in the Midwest League All-Star game last month. Gonzales was the starting first baseman.


“I had a great time,” said Gonzales, who went 1-for-2 in the game that the Western Division won. “Playing with all those great players was special.”


After Tuesday’s off day, the Snappers are in a three-way tie for first place in the second half of the season with a 14-10 record. The Snappers begin a 12-game road trip and won’t be back at Pohlman Field until Aug. 2.


Gonzales, who lives in Janesville, wants to help the team get to the Midwest League postseason. The regular season ends Sept. 5.


When his season does end, Gonzales will return to California and enjoy a vacation with his family. He’s likely headed to Fort Myers, Fla., next season on the Twins advanced A club.


He’ll find out what team officials want him to work on in his fifth season of pro ball.


“That’s something I’ll talk to them about at the end of the season,” Gonzales said.


He can only aim to keep making as much improvement in his future as he’s doing this season.



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