NEW YORK -- At the 2019 Rawlings Gold Glove Awards ceremony on Friday night, some of the best and brightest stars of Major League Baseball lit up Manhattan.
None shined more brightly than the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado and the Athletics’ Matt Chapman. The pair, whose journey from teammates at shortstop at El Toro High School in Lake Forest, Calif., to two of the premier third basemen in the Major Leagues is well-known by now, repeated as Platinum Glove Award winners.
While the Gold Glove Awards honor the best fielder at each position, since 2011, the Platinum Glove Awards pit all 18 Gold Glovers against each other to determine the best defensive player in each league. The award is decided by a combination of fan votes and the Society for American Baseball Research’s defensive index, which considers a fielder’s range, his arm and his sure-handedness, along with his outstanding plays, using metrics such as reaction time, the amount of ground covered and the velocity of throws.
For the duo at the hot corner, it was a special moment made all the more poignant by the man who made the official announcement. In a moment orchestrated by Karl Ravech and Eduardo Pérez of ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, who were set to present the awards but whose envelopes didn’t have the winners’ names in them, Mike Gonzales -- Chapman and Arenado’s high school coach at El Toro -- made a surprise appearance on stage and did the honors himself.
“It’s huge. It’s such an honor [and] such a proud moment for myself and for my family,” Gonzales said backstage. “Being a part of these guys’ career and to see how compassionate they are with our family and my kids, to see their work ethic and to see them mature as young men just makes me so proud knowing that I’ve known them since they were 12, 13 years old. The people they’ve grown up to be is just tremendous.”
It is now the second time that two players at the same position have won the Platinum Glove Award in the same year, after their triumph in 2018. The pair are perfect in the Gold Glove Awards department in their careers, as the 26-year-old Chapman has earned the nod for the American League in both of his two full seasons in the Majors and the 28-year-old Arenado has gone a remarkable 7-for-7 for the National League so far -- extending his own record for most consecutive Gold Glove Awards to begin an infielder's career.
Chapman led all MLB third basemen with 18 defensive runs saved in 2019, and Arenado led all NL third basemen with a 10.3 Ultimate Zone Rating, according to Fangraphs. Chapman has also won the last two Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Awards for third base, and Arenado has three of his own from 2015-17.
“It means a lot, definitely,” Chapman said. "It’s pretty special, and hopefully there’s many more to come. It just feels good to be able to do this. It’s hard to describe.”
Gonzales was effusive in his praise for the two third basemen, who have certainly come a long way since their El Toro days. While they both had a high ceiling from the beginning -- Chapman was a first-round Draft pick out of Cal State Fullerton in 2014 and Arenado was a second-round Draft pick out of high school in 2009 -- it has been uniquely fulfilling for him to watch them grow while also remembering their roots.
“I talk to these guys all the time,” Gonzales said. “They’re always so generous with their time with myself and my family. I have two boys who play baseball, so they’re always at their beck and call if they ever need anything. It’s just a great relationship. They’ve always stayed grounded. They never forget where they came from. It’s just a great friendship they’ve grown to have.”
Their Platinum Glove Award wins also served as a touching connection to the theme of the night, which was set in a video of a young boy making plays, dreaming up scenarios for himself worthy of a highlight reel -- an inning-ending double play here, an in-time throw to the plate there -- all with the tagline that a young person only needs a ball, a glove and an open field in order to envision the player they hope to be. Portraits of each of the 18 Gold Glove Award winners then flashed onto the screen from when they were once that young boy with a dream.
Now they are “the finest in the field,” as the video put it, and Arenado and Chapman have already begun to set their sights on even bigger dreams.
“Thank God we’ve been able to stay healthy this year, to go out there and compete every day,” Arenado said. “There are so many great ballplayers who won Gold Gloves, and so many players who didn’t win Gold Gloves who are so good, so to be voted by [the fans] is a seriously unreal feeling. It’s pretty surreal. But we’ve just got to continue to work hard and hopefully make it happen again.”