Gonzo honored to join Latino Baseball Hall of Fame
D-backs great has family, former teammates join in celebration
LA ROMANA, Dominican Republic -- Three generations of Latin American baseball came together Saturday night at the fifth annual induction ceremony for the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame, but the star-studded event took on a special relevance for the D-backs' organization, as Luis Gonzalez was inducted in front of family and friends alongside five Latino luminaries.
Gonzalez, a Cuban-American, joined Roberto Kelly (Panama), Carlos Delgado (Puerto Rico), Ozzie Guillen (Venezuela), Nomar Garciaparra (Mexico) and Pedro Martinez (Dominican Republic) on a night that none will soon forget.
"It's a proud moment, not only for the simple fact of being Hispanic, but for my parents and grandparents, to go in representing a country where they were born," said Gonzalez. "You try to play a game to earn the respect of your teammates and friends and fans, but when you receive an honor like this, it's pretty overwhelming and humbling."
If respect was what Gonzalez sought as a player, it was evident he had earned it with his play on the field and the way he carried himself off of it during a 19-year big league career.
"Luis is the definition of the ultimate professional," Garciaparra told the crowd during his acceptance speech. "He was the best teammate and I'm proud to enter the Hall of Fame with him."
Gonzalez, who currently serves as a Special Assistant to D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall, said that he was particularly moved by the fact that he had both of his families there -- his wife, Christine and triplets Alyssa, Jacob and Megan as well as a dozen representatives of the D-backs.
"Gonzo is one of the greatest figures in the history of our organization," Hall told the audience as he introduced the newest Hall of Famer. "He's a fan favorite. He played for six teams, but really put the Diamondbacks on the map. If there was a Hall of Fame for humanitarianism, Gonzo would be in it. If there was a Hall of Fame for best teammates, Gonzo would be in it. He is one of the finest individuals to ever wear a Major League Baseball uniform and now he will have his legacy enshrined forever."
Even the night's co-host, former big league manager Manny Acta, praised his former Minor League roommate, as did Dominican native son Martinez, who pointed out Gonzalez's success against him in the big leagues. The left-handed batter hit .388 with seven extra-base hits and just seven strikeouts in 57 plate appearances against Martinez, who is headed to Cooperstown this summer alongside another D-backs legend, Randy Johnson.
But Gonzalez's brief acceptance speech focused more on those who came before him, helping open the doors to Latino players and teaching the younger generation how to play the game with passion and respect. The dais was filled with baseball legends from Felipe Alou, Ozzie Virgil, Cookie Rojas, Vic Davalillo and Moises Alou to current contemporaries Carlos Beltran, Johnny Cueto, Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was also in attendance.
The next generation of baseball talent did not seem very far away, either. Gonzalez took great joy in bringing his son, Jacob, to the D-backs academy in Boca Chica on Saturday where the highly-touted sophomore at Chaparral High School had the opportunity to work out alongside several prospects on the same morning his father was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
"I had no idea of the magnitude of this," said Gonzalez, who is one of just 19 players in MLB history with 2,500 hits, 500 doubles, 350 homers and 1,000 RBIs. "To look out in the crowd and see my wife and kids and so many people from the D-backs down here in the Dominican Republic was something I'll always remember."