01/25/2021 6:20 AM
Nick Gonzales - Cotuit '18 - SportsPix Photos
Article By: Taylor Viles
Growing up with a dream to be a professional baseball player is a dream that runs wild with many young baseball fans. The scenario of “down by three with a full count, two outs, the bases loaded, and you at the plate” has been exhausted by them all during backyard “Wiffle Ball” tournaments.
Most of those children begin to forget those fantasies as they grow into adulthood, but a talented few stick with it, train, and work hard every single day to accomplish that dream. And then, one day, a fraction of those, hear their name called at the MLB draft.
Nick Gonzales realized early on what it takes to succeed in competitive baseball. “Constant dedication, preparation and working hard...is my recipe [for success],” he says. “You can't beat that.”
The New Mexico State star shone bright during his three seasons with the school. He began his collegiate career on fire hitting .347 with 17 doubles, nine home runs, and 36 RBI’s over the course of the season.
Following his first season with the Aggies, Gonzales came to the Cape to play for Cotuit Manager Mike Roberts. His time as a Kettleer in 2018 only lasted three games, however, as he failed to record a hit.
But the experience wasn’t a waste of time, according to Gonzales. “I got to go and get my feet wet a little bit and see what it's like,” he said. “[I got to talk to] Coach Roberts and I even got to meet a few players who were returning for the following season. So it was kind of easier the first few days at Cotuit the next [summer].”
He returned to college after his first stint with the Cape with the goal to improve his game and return to the Kettleers for the whole summer the following year. In the spring of 2019, Gonzales hit .432 with 16 home runs, 19 doubles and 80 RBI’s, making his freshman numbers look like childsplay.
These statistics earned him the right to play the entire summer on Cape Cod and subsequently gave him a new goal. “I wanted to be a Cape League all-star,” he said. “Right off the bat, that's what I wanted to do… And then, after I started doing really well towards the middle of the season...it kind of was just smooth sailing and having fun.”
Gonzales came to the Cape knowing what he was capable of, but also knew the competition he would be facing night in and night out would be a new kind of challenge. “I just wanted to see where I was at and compete at the highest level I've ever competed at.”
Regardless of the intense competition, his play stood out. Gonzales earned the Cape League all-star selection he’d set out to accomplish and by season’s end, took home the league’s MVP award by hitting .351 with seven home runs and 33 RBI’s.
However, his proudest Cape Cod moment was bringing another championship to Cotuit. “To bring the trophy back home to Cotuit and be able to just see everyone happy, all the fans happy...” he said with a smile. “There were so many people there. And, you know, everyone was all excited. So I think that was definitely the best part.” During the playoffs, he collected the eventual game winning RBIs in both the series clinching victory over Falmouth in the second round as well as the first game against Harwich in the top of the 15th inning.
Gonzales explained that playing on Cape Cod didn’t change the way he competed, but rather aided him in reinforcing his strengths. “I think it kind of just solidified how I do play the game, which is with a lot of passion and playing for the right reasons. So I think it kind of just put those in stone for me,” he said. “That's the way I still play today.”
His Cape League performance on top of the ridiculous statistics he compiled over the 16 game Coronavirus-shortened 2020 college season put him in an excellent position for the 2020 draft.
In a five round draft, where selections are limited, many players held their breath because there was no guarantee of being drafted. But Gonzales didn’t have to wait long to hear his number called. The Pittsburgh Pirates selected him with the seventh overall pick; a rank that comes with media hype and fan enthusiasm as first rounders bring the potential to create a winning atmosphere within the organization which can lead to championships.
For Gonzales, he didn’t care about where he was picked, he was just glad to hear his name. “It was an incredible honor and definitely showed that hard work pays off,” he said. “I didn’t really care as to how high I would go because just being selected was a blessing and something I had been dreaming of my whole life.”
He describes the emotions of draft day as mainly excitement between him and his family. It was a culmination of years of dedication paying off. “We were just really excited to see where I was going. With the [college] season getting canceled in February, it was four or five months of no baseball,” he explained. The extended break was disheartening and disrupted his junior season.
Gonzales worked out with the Pirates organization over the summer and into the Fall. He is currently back home in Arizona further conditioning himself as he awaits the call to join Pittsburgh’s spring training camp.
As he looks forward to his future career, it’s hard not to turn back to his time on Cape Cod which he acknowledges gave him a stage to illustrate his abilities at the plate. “Going to [the Cape] and performing will change your whole baseball career,” said Gonzales. “I think that really molded my position that I'm in now. Without it, I think I'd still be playing baseball, but I just don't know where or what situation I would be in.”
Five years ahead, Gonzales hopes to be playing baseball, “the same way I play, everyday... I [also] want to have a house and be married and grow up and have some land,” he said. He continued with how he wants to go back to college and finish his finance degree at some point, “for my mom and dad,” he says. “and then you know, maybe sometime down the road, I'll do finance.”