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Former Pitman star feels better about his new baseball path
Former Pitman High pitcher Nathan Gonzalez made a tough decision this year, leaving Division I program St. Mary’s College to move closer to his family and friends. It turns out he’s happier now. - photo by CHHUN SUN / The Journal
“It’s nothing you haven’t seen before.” Those words were spoken from the opposing team’s dugout to the batter. Nathan Gonzalez probably didn’t hear one of the coaches say that, or even had the time to realize what the words really meant: Hanford, the opposing team, wanted to delay the inevitable.
Gonzalez couldn’t be denied, though. He was the proud owner of nine strikeouts in a 16-0 win in the Central California State Tournament in Modesto last week that granted the Modesto Babe Ruth 16-18-year-old baseball team a trip to Watsonville starting Thursday. The players and coaches hope to successfully defend their Pacific Southwest Regional crown in order to go back to the World Series title game for the second consecutive year.
Gonzalez has been in Watsonville before, but the circumstances were different.
“He seems happy (now),” said Babe Ruth teammate Ian Fregosi.
A lot has changed for Gonzalez this year. Only months ago, he was a freshman pitching for St. Mary’s College of California as part of the Gaels’ pitching staff. This was Division I baseball, something he has always wanted — part of his dream of playing in the pros.
But there was something gnawing at his stomach, making him think twice about what he truly wanted.
He wanted out. His personality didn’t mesh well with the people at St. Mary’s, he said — though he added he left on good terms with coaches and teammates, as he waited until the end of the 2009 season to leave. He wanted to be closer to home, so he decided to play for Merced College next season. The move allows him to avoid sitting out for a year if he had transferred to another D-I school, as well as joining his best friend, Fregosi, who played with Gonzalez at Pitman High.
“I didn’t have fun,” Gonzalez said about his time at St. Mary’s. “If I’m not having fun playing, I’m not going to do that.”
Since leaving the Gaels, Gonzalez is happier. And you can see it today. He’s around his family and his close friends more often, instead of having them make the trip to Moraga, which sits in the Bay Area. Fregosi noticed his best friend was “bored” during a visit, leaving the impression that Gonzalez wanted to be somewhere else.
This feeling came despite Gonzalez having a solid season, finishing 3-3 in 10 starts.
And now, he has found his way back to the Central Valley. He hopes his time with Modesto Babe Ruth will pay off. He believes it will.
He was around the team last season, attending most of the local games and traveling with the players and coaches to Watsonville to watch them celebrate a regional title.
He feels much more confident these days, though he has to because he is Modesto’s No. 1 pitcher. And he plays that way, especially with a fastball that can go 90-plus mph. He understands the moment, like when he faced Hanford in the state championship game and was able to shut out the team.
“I’m confident,” the right-hander said. “It’s confidence, not cockiness. I know I have the tools to beat the guy. That’s the approach that I have with each guy I face.”
It’s hard to deny that.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.