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Gio Gonzalez Knew It Was Time To Go

Latino Sports

New York: At a point last year during the pandemic 2020 baseball season there was Gio Gonzalez on the mound for the Chicago White Sox. His fastball had velocity and the curve ball had movement.

“I feel really good,” he said then about getting some starts and coming out of the bullpen.

But later on the veteran lefthander developed soreness in his shoulder. He was sidelined and the push was on to come back. Gonzalez, during that 60-game season, did not have much time to get back on the mound and contribute during the White Sox postseason run.

So after a one-year contract, he was released and returned to his home in Hialeah Florida. Gonzalez did not not sit idle and continued to work his shoulder back to strength with hopes a team would give him a call as spring training was around the corner.

However, baseball as we know has become an era for the younger and power pitcher. Gio Gonzalez knew it was a matter of time when reality would come to face him. Soon it would be time to call it a career.

Thursday, at 35-years of age, Gonzalez said goodbye to the game of baseball after 13- big league seasons. The hometown Marlins gave him another opportunity a week before spring training camp and took their chance with a minor league deal.

But the time was now for Gio Gonzalez to say goodbye. He still had the desire but throwing those pitches were not the same. The fastball had some velocity. The curve did not have movement that was seen with the A’s, Nationals, Brewers, and White Sox.

‘I can’t complain,” Gonzalez said to me Thursday afternoon an hour after his retirement became official.”The arm pretty much, my shoulder could not hold up.”

His last mound appearance came in a spring game Saturday at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. The Nationals tagged Gonzalez with 7-runs, 8-hits and two walks in two different innings.

Spring games and rules are different from the regular season game. Gonzalez would pitch in the sixth and was removed, but manager Don Mattingly got him back on the mound for another inning.

It doesn’t go in the record book. No spring game of facing 11 Nationals, as Gonzalez did, will be remembered. But it was obvious, Gonzalez with a minor league deal was facing a deadline.

“Yesterday I had my conversation,” Gonzalez said. “Contract came to end of the deal. Nothing but the best to say about the Marlins. Can never look at them and say they were unfair.”

And yes, Gonzalez can always say the Marlins gave him an opportunity to pitch in his hometown. Other teams also gave him a look during the offseason, but there was some chemistry working to have a veteran presence in camp around a young Marlins pitching staff.

Seven years with the Nationals and Gonzalez was rewarded with a hefty and lucrative contract. He was an All-Star and National League Cy Young Award finalist in 2012 with a 21-8 record, 2.89 ERA, and 207 strikeouts.

On his Instagram account. Gonzalez said about the Nationals, “What an incredible seven years you gave me and my family. Because of you, I will forever be thankful. You helped me become the man/father I am today, the most unbelievable love I could ever ask for. So happy for the World Series title, your team, and fans.”

He was referring to the Nationals 2019 World Series championship and remained friends with many in the organization.

But you had to know more about Gio Gonzalez off the field. In the clubhouse he was media friendly. He never dodged a question and loved to pitch in New York at the old and new Yankee Stadiums. Citi Field was his favorite ballpark.

We got to know each other well. Gio always said, “You are my good luck charm Rich” and I may have been. Because every start at Citi Field, I had the privilege of covering a Gonzalez gem.

But it was the pitches and comfort of the Citi Field mound. I had nothing to do with his success and every pitcher does have a comfort zone at one or two ballparks.

And that passion for the Citi Field mound was impeccable, 10 wins in 11 decisions against the Mets in Flushing. He hoped to one day pitch in New York and there were moments when the Mets were contemplating a way to bring him to Flushing.

Two years ago, before signing with the White Sox. The Yankees signed Gonzalez to a minor league deal and he had some starts in Scranton. But the options were over and the Yankees gave him the release.

“The White Sox,” said Gonzalez, “full circle, drafted me at the age of 18 and met back up 12 years later. Thank you for giving me a chance to put on a Major League jersey and pitch for the team that drafted me. Truly special moment.”

And to all of us here at Latino Sports, it was an honor to present Gio Gonzalez as a recipient of the 2017 NL MVP Pitcher of the Year as voted by members of the Latino Sports Writers and Broadcasters Association.

He proudly displays the portrait along with his other awards at his home. Gonzalez said, he will always be grateful for the recognition and thanked fans over the years for their support.

Thing is, on a personal note, I will miss his presence. He was one of those ballplayers that you get to know in a business where the player and writer are usually distanced.

I am sure this is not the last of Gio Gonzalez and baseball. He has aspirations of training youngsters to do what he accomplished. Coaching or staying in baseball in some capacity is not out of the question.

But for now, it’s home sweet home for Gio Gonzalez. And for his wife and two children, I am sure they are more than content that dad is home.

Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

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