Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Adrian Gonzalez thinks he can hit .420 in first season in Class A

HighBeam Research

Title: Shooting for .420 Cougars' Gonzalez has lofty goals, humble demeanor.(Sports Weekend)

Date: 4/27/2001; Publication: Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL); Author: Bush, Joe
Byline: Joe Bush Daily Herald Sports Writer

With one jaw-dropping exception, Adrian Gonzalez is the most unassuming highly touted first-round pick the Florida Marlins have sent to the Kane County Cougars.
Grounded in a respect for the game that was inseparable from his childhood, the 18-year-old first baseman from San Diego is quiet, thoughtful, mature and an assassin from the left side of the plate.
It is the latter trait which leads Gonzalez to interrupt his humility with a statement which begs to alarm the baseball gods.
The top overall pick in the 2000 draft was rated the country's top high school hitter, and after a 4-for-28 start after his $3 million signing in June, he batted .320 the rest of the summer.
Through Tuesday's games, Gonzalez had the sixth-best batting average in the 14-team Midwest League (.373), led the circuit in hits and appeared in the top five in four other offensive categories.
Nice start, kid, but what do you think you'll end up with after the grind of nearly 140 games?
"I'm actually shooting for .420, that's my goal," Gonzalez says without a smile. "I think I can do it, it's just a matter going out there and being aggressive every time at the plate.
"It's just a matter of putting the effort into it. Four hundred - I think that's pretty reasonable. If I hit .380 I'll be completely happy, if I hit .350 I'll be happy, but I believe in myself that I can go out there every day and get basehits."
Slightly shocking, considering the MWL record is .409, set in 1956? Sure, but it's a more agreeable form of hubris than that of previous first-rounders who played at Elfstrom Stadium.
Josh Booty cruised into town in 1994 with a brand-new red Acura NSX with the license plate "5TH PICK". The third baseman left having set the Cougars strikeout record.
In 2000, Josh Beckett made reporters wait after games while he finished eating or dressing. At least Beckett will back up his snootiness - now at high Class A Brevard County, he'll be in Double-A Portland sometime this season.
Gonzalez has none of that arrogance about him and, in fact, has shown a knack for self-deprecation.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder was a triple short of the cycle April 21 - he hit another double in his final at-bat - and explained why afterward.
"I can't run, so I'm thinking double," he said. "In order for it to be a triple, two guys have to collide and the second baseman has to go out there and get the ball."
Gonzalez's seemingly insane hitting goal is based on logic as much as faith in himself.
Cleanup hitter and MWL home run leader Jim Kavourias bats behind Gonzalez, while Pat Magness, who was fifth in the MWL with a .375 average, bats sixth.
Most indicative of others' expectations of Gonzalez is that you'd be hard-pressed to find baseball men who will raise an eyebrow at his".420" statement.
Gonzalez's father, David, the root of his youngest son's unity with baseball, was in town to watch a couple games April 15-16.
A former slugging first baseman in Mexican semipro ball who played until five years ago, David won't be the one to muzzle Adrian.
"I'm real confident of his abilities," David says. "He always hit over .400, always. When he was a little one, he had a season with .750. I'm thinking he's going to be around .380 to .400. I know he can do that."
Cougars hitting coach Matt Winters won't be giving Gonzalez any lessons on public speaking.
"His knowledge of hitting is past an 18-, 19-year-old's knowledge," Winters says. "I mean, he's thinking like Triple-A guys right now, or major-leaguers. As far as approach, I've never seen it in a kid that young. More polished than most college kids.
"He's got major-league mentality right now. It's almost scary what's going to happen when he really starts getting the hang of it."
If Gonzalez has much more to learn about hitting, he is all set in his feel for the baseball life.
He and his middle-infielder older brothers Edgar and David Jr., shagged flies and poked around the dugouts at their father's games, went to each other's games and used each other to improve skills.
"That's why I've gotten so much experience at my age," Adrian says. "You have three teachers next to you every game, and if I'm not playing, I'm watching baseball. You pick up little things here and there."
While it's not uncommon for teenage kids in warm-weather regions to play baseball year-round, the Gonzalez boys took advantage of the family's international existence.
David's family air-conditioning business is based in Mexico with branches around San Diego.
His boys would play in the California Little Leagues for a few months, then finish out the year in the Mexican youth leagues.
This is why Adrian is more curious than concerned about his first 140-game professional season.
"I've played year-round, four times a week," he says. "I mean, it's not six, seven times a week, but a lot of games in a year - that's not new to me. The thing that will be new is playing every day, which, hey, I enjoy it. I mean how can you not enjoy it? It's baseball."
It's that perspective which keeps Gonzalez level-headed about his status as one of the finest 18-year-old prospects in baseball.
Money means nothing to him, and last year's signing was proof. Though technically prohibited by baseball rules, Florida and Gonzalez reached an agreement for the signing bonus four days before the draft, which has become increasingly ruled by a player's signability as well as baseball ability.
Gonzalez thus became the first overall No. 1 pick in eight years to sign for less than the previous year's No. 1 - Tampa Bay and Josh Hamilton agreed to $3.96 million.
David remembers he and Adrian talking money with the Marlins one day. Adrian was kicking his father's leg under the table.
" 'Say OK, say OK, don't ask for anything more, say it's OK,' " David recalls his son saying. "Money is good for his security, but the first thing is baseball."
The game is at least tied in importance with integrity and class for David and his wife, Alba, and their three sons.
The parents were clearly reveling in being honored guests at Elfstrom Stadium, with David proudly discussing Adrian, and Alba showing off family pictures and press clippings and baseball cards.
Here's a shot of David and his sons on the field at San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium with a thin Tony Gwynn; another of Adrian in a group which includes actress Pamela Lee Anderson, on whose weekly cop show Adrian made a cameo.
David had offers to play in the top Mexican league but was making more money in business. Tampa Bay drafted Edgar in the 30th round out of San Diego State last summer, and now David has two sons in pro ball.
"Oh yeah, he's proud," Adrian says. "The whole time we were growing up he wanted one of us to be a professional baseball player. Now he gets the chance. He's so thrilled about it."
Whether Adrian hits .420 or .240, David will still be pleased.
"When he got signed I told him, 'Don't be different, be the same guy,' " says David. "He's doing OK. He's a very, very nice guy, and I like that. That's the main thing for me."
COPYRIGHT 2001 Paddock Publications
This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan.  All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group.

This document provided by HighBeam Research at http://www.highbeam.com

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