Everyone knew the time would finally come. Time for fan favorite Luis Gonzalez, “Gonzo”, to come back to the team he helped propel into a winner and eventual World Series Champion. Saturday, August 29, 2009, yesterday, that day finally came.
Now, there are those circles that wish he had come back in a different manner. Take my wife Andrea for instance. She is of the opinion the Arizona Diamondbacks should have signed him to a contract so he could play out the season with them and retire properly. I know there are others in that very same circle. I agree, it sure would have been nice to see Gonzo give it one more whirl with the team. After all, he can still hit. He did damage to the Dbacks pitching staff just least season as a member of the Florida Marlins.
However, one had to believe Saturday was a special night and if there was a way for Gonzo to transition from player to the front office, then this was the way it should have been done.
The Dbacks held a press conference for Gonzo prior to the game against the Houston Astros last night. Mind you, they had already planned on it being Luis Gonzalez night at the ballpark. The announcement of his retirement and subsequent hiring as a Special Assistant to President Derek Hall was the icing on the cake.
Gonzo was emotional, as many players get when you leave something you’ve been doing and love for so long. After 19 years with the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Florida Marlins, it was time for Gonzo to hang ’em up. We wept right along with him as the Dbacks showed videos up on the DBTV Jumbtron of his days with the team as a player. These were mostly tears of joy though. Gonzo brought so much joy to the organization and the fans. It was a reminder of just how much Gonzo meant to the team and the community.
I remember growing up as a Cubs fan (still am a Cubs fan on days they don’t play the Dbacks) and watching Gonzo just kill Cubs pitching as a member of the Astros. I always wondered “how do the Cubs get this guy?” Well, my dream finally came true when he left the Astros and became a member of the Cubs. I loved it! Best move the Cubs had made in a long time I though.
When the Diamondbacks made it clear in the off-season between 1998-1999 that they were going to go after big name talent to win now, Gonzo came across my mind. Mind you, I never imagined he would end up in the uniform of my new favorite team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. A joyous day to say the least when he signed.
He paid dividends early. He had a 30 game hitting streak at the beginning of the 1999 season. His contributions, all with many others of course, led the Dbacks to their first divisional title in only their second season of existence.
The biggest year for him, as for most, though, was in 2001. Gonzo hit a team record 57 home runs, which still stand to this day, although current Diamondback Mark Reynolds may break that some day and last night became the only other player than Gonzo to hit at least 40 home runs with his monster 439 foot shot to the upper deck of left field.
Gonzo’s 57 home runs did leave some thinking some other force other than his strength was behind the career high total. To this day, people still bring up the ‘s’ word when talking about Gonzo in 2001. How did he hit all those homers, not to even come close to matching it again? Maybe I’m a bit naive, but I chalk it up to a career year. Others have the right to think what they want, however until someone can prove otherwise, there should be no debate, no controversey.
What I think, what I believe, though, is that Gonzo’s legacy will live a long time here in Arizona. He was the face of the franchise as a player and will continue to serve the team that for all intents and purpose, made his career.
Welcome home Gonzo!