Notes: Romy's path to MLB; 'Hawk' turns 80

September 4th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- , the White Sox leadoff hitter and third baseman for Saturday night’s contest against the Royals, could have taken a different athletic path years ago.

Actually, that path for Gonzalez would have taken him to the gridiron instead of the baseball diamond, as he was a quarterback for two seasons at American Senior High School in Hialeah, Fla., before attending the University of Miami. The thought of a football career actually once crossed the mind of the now 24-year-old and No. 20 White Sox prospect, per MLB Pipeline.

“Maybe there could have been. I thought I was pretty good,” said Gonzalez, speaking in the visitors’ dugout prior to Saturday’s contest. “I loved it. And I still do to this day. So I played my freshman year and sophomore year in high school. And once I committed to Miami, I just decided to focus on baseball.”

That choice was a wise one for Gonzalez, who turned a breakout Minor League season into a 2021 Major League chance with a White Sox squad pushing closer to the postseason with each day. Between stops at Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte, Gonzalez slashed .275/.357/.525 with 23 home runs and 22 stolen bases.

His Major League debut came in Friday night’s loss with a strikeout and a groundout to second to end the long-delayed contest. But it was good for Gonzalez to get the jitters out of the way.

“After the first strikeout a lot of the guys came up to me and were like, ‘Hey, it’s OK,’” Gonzalez said. “Seby [Zavala] came up to me and said, ‘Guess what, my first nine at-bats, I struck out all nine.’ Once he told me that I was like, ‘All right, it will be OK. There’s a lot of baseball to be played and I’m excited for it.’

“It was crazy. Still feels so surreal, feels like a dream. Definitely felt some nerves, definitely a great experience. It was a rush of emotions. Just finally realizing I could say I finally played a game in the Major Leagues. It’s crazy.”

Gonzalez’s mother, father and grandfather were in the Kauffman Stadium stands on Saturday, with Gonzalez able to say hi to them after finishing batting practice. He not only got the chance for his first start but also got the responsibility of hitting at the top of the order.

“I like it. I love it. I like leading off," Gonzalez said. "I’m very comfortable with that. Being my first start, it’s exciting. [Manager Tony La Russa] came up to me and said, ‘You’re playing third and hitting leadoff.’

“Just walked by me. I was like, ‘All right, let’s do it.’ Tony has been real awesome with me, talking to me during BP and basically telling me to relax and have fun and continue to do what I’ve been doing to get to this point.”

A special birthday

Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, the iconic White Sox broadcaster, celebrated his 80th birthday on Saturday. The franchise legend was recognized for his 2020 Ford C. Frick Award this summer during ceremonies at the Hall of Fame.

Third to first

• Yoán Moncada tweaked his wrist during Friday’s loss to the Royals, giving him a night off on Saturday and making room for Gonzalez in the lineup.

“He may make a swing right-handed that aggravates it where left-handed it doesn’t bother him,” La Russa said. “So didn’t want to risk it today.”

• Jimmy Lambert is with the team in Kansas City. The right-hander will figure into the White Sox pitching plans in Oakland, with Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito both on the injured list.

“Yes, we’re definitely looking at how we’re going to pitch that series, and right now, the Tuesday game is dependent on what we do the next two days here with some of the guys ... if we make it a bullpen game or something,” La Russa said. “Jimmy is very likely to be activated for that game.”

He said it

“He started out getting big hits and he did it for the whole month. Did everything. Hit for an average, drove in a lot of important runs, scored some runs and played his great defense. I saw a comment, there were times, not to be disrespectful of who hit fourth, but having Eloy [Jiménez] there, he feels more protected. When he has a better strike zone, he’s a better hitter.” -- La Russa, on José Abreu winning American League Player of the Month for August