Carlos Gonzalez has a challenge that extends beyond opposing teams. A native of Venezuela, he cannot ignore the protests impacting the people in his homeland.As hard as Gonzalez tries, it is not something he can simply forget when he gets to the ballpark. He is quick to say that the
Carlos Gonzalez has a challenge that extends beyond opposing teams. A native of Venezuela, he cannot ignore the protests impacting the people in his homeland.
As hard as Gonzalez tries, it is not something he can simply forget when he gets to the ballpark. He is quick to say that the problems in Venezuela are no alibi for his early-season struggles with the Rockies this year.
But Gonzalez also admits Venezuela's problems weigh on him. He has family and friends who still live there, and the challenges they face are not easy to ignore.
Gonzalez discussed those challenges in his homeland in this week's Q&A:
MLB.com: With what is happening in Venezuela right now, as a Venezuelan with family there, how much of a challenge is that for you?
Gonzalez: It is difficult, because, you know, we're here. I feel, my family and I, we're really extremely thankful for the opportunity to live in this wonderful country, but at the same time, I have a lot of family, a lot of friends, still back there fighting. They are going through a lot. It gets to me. I get worried. Everybody gets worried for us. You want everybody to be safe. It's one of those things that you wish it just continued to get better. You pray every day, and, hopefully, things get better in the future.
MLB.com: Is your immediate family -- your parents, brothers and sisters -- in the United States, or are they in Venezuela?
Gonzalez: My parents still live there, and so do my brother and sister. But, you know, they spend a lot of time in the United States. Whenever they need to get away, they come here and feel free, feel comfortable. It's tough for my parents to come here, because they feel like if they stay here, they're going to leave so many people behind. There are my uncles and aunts and cousins. There are a lot of people there that count on my family, count on me. That's why it makes it so hard, and that's why my family is still there. Like I said, they come to the States a lot, but they always go back and try to stay together with everybody else.
MLB.com: When Yorvit Torrealba was with the Rockies, his son was kidnapped. Does that worry you at all? Do you think about that type of incident?
Gonzalez: Of course. You know, when the situation gets really bad, people start making mistakes, and start doing stupid things. That was a big mistake when that happened with Yorvit. Thankfully, his son is safe. Everybody is safe. But it's one of those things that you hope it doesn't happen to you, because it happens every day to normal families, normal people. They think twice whenever they want to mess with a baseball player, because they know that a lot of people are going to get involved. It's not just a regular person. It's a lot of people. It's very random. Last time it happened, it was with catcher Wilson Ramos, who was playing for the Nationals. It was big news, not just in Venezuela, but in the United States, because it was a Major League player. It's a tough situation.
MLB.com: Does it affect you at all as a player? Are you able to pretty much block that out?
Gonzalez: Well, I'm always trying to block everything out. I think, at the end of the day, everyone has problems. But when we come to the ballpark, we try to enjoy our time as much as possible. There's a lot of fans in the stands. One of the things that I always tell myself is there's a lot of kids watching you play, so try the best you can. Just go out there, and have fun. Just teach those kids how to play the game. That makes me forget about everything else. Baseball is a wonderful sport. It's a game that I've been playing since I was a little kid. You always try to keep it the same way. All the way up to the big leagues.
MLB.com: How often do you go back to Venezuela?
Gonzalez: I go every year. I spend a couple weeks each time. I don't like to spend a bunch of time there, but whenever I go, it's because I was am doing a lot of clinics with the kids. I am visiting the hospitals, and contributing with the country. I am saying hello to all my friends, all my family, in those two weeks. It's a long road for me, so that's why I don't like to do it for a long time. Whenever I go there, I try to enjoy it with them. Just spend time, and just give them a bright side.
MLB.com: That would seem to be the tough part. We all have pride in where we are from. When you see all that unrest in your native country, it has to be tough.
Gonzalez: That is true. It is difficult when people say a lot of negative things about places you came from, but like any other thing, it has a bright side. There's a lot of good people in Venezuela, a lot of good human beings, people who work really hard. Guys that they want to continue to work, and get another opportunity. It's fun. Like last week, I had 10 fans from Maracaibo, Venezuela, saying hello before the game. It's always nice to see them. I ask them "What are you doing over here? Are you on vacation?" They were like, "No man, we just trying to find a new place to stay." It's always a nice thing to see people where you come from.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.