There were smiles and a few tears, but mostly smiles on Wednesday when Pitman’s Jordan Gonzalez and Hailee Baldwin signed their respective letters of intent to the University of the Pacific and Fresno State. Staying with Pride tradition, a large crowd gathered in the school's library to watch the culmination of the two athletes’ energy, effort, and time and catch a glimpse of what their future might hold.
For Gonzalez, signing on to play Division I baseball was a family affair. Since picking up a baseball at the age of four, Gonzalez has followed his brother Nathan’s lead and looked to him for inspiration. After watching his brother pitch for Division I schools like St. Mary’s and Cal Poly, Gonzalez is ready to strike out on his own collegiate path as a pitcher and make his brother and family proud.
“It all started off by watering plants and playing catch with my brother in between each plant,” Gonzalez said. “My brother was the main success in my life; he’s the reason why I’m where I am today.”
“It’s an amazing feeling. I just want to follow in his footsteps,” the Pride senior added.
Years of showcase and travel baseball and flashes of potential during his junior year at Pitman drew the attention of Fresno State, UC Davis, and Santa Clara but Gonzalez’ familiarity with UOP’s program and staff convinced him it was where he belonged.
“I chose UOP because I went on an official visit and I loved the campus,” Gonzalez said. “I felt like I blended well with the group there and I felt like I was part of the family.”
Although he’s still a year away from joining the Tigers, Gonzalez didn’t mince words when it came to his expectations at UOP.
“I want to make it to the College World Series and be a freshman Friday night starter,” Gonzalez said. “I’m aiming high.”
While Gonzalez’s baseball roots took a hold of the teenager in his early years, Baldwin’s swimming beginnings didn’t take place until she was 12 years old. After signing up for a junior life guard class Baldwin realized she couldn’t swim all that well, a realization that kicked off a whirlwind of training that hasn’t stopped for the past five years.
“I started with a summer program and just fell in love,” Baldwin said. “I fell into it and then I saw the potential I had so I started working really hard and seeing what I could do.”
A year after her first summer swimming class Baldwin joined the Ripon Aquatics team where she began forging an intense work ethic. Baldwin swam for Turlock Christian’s swim team her freshman and sophomore years but by her junior year she was looking for more.
In her first year at Pitman Baldwin dominated the competition. She helped set a Central California Conference relay record, set a CCC record in the 100m breaststroke, finished the CCC season undefeated in her events, and made it to sections where she placed 12th in the 200m individual medley and 5th in the breaststroke. For her efforts she was named team MVP at the end of the season.
“It was a lot of fun, it was the best season I’ve had,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin’s swimming exploits caught the attention of UOP, UC Davis, Fresno and San Jose State. Her family’s love of Fresno State athletics and its close proximity to home spurred the Pride senior to pull the trigger and commit to the Bulldogs.
“I had a lot of schools contact me but I was looking to stay closer to home,” Baldwin said. “My whole family has always gone to football games there and I just love the school. They’re a Division I team, they have a really nice facility, and they treat their athletes well.”
Although Gonzalez and Baldwin have their foundations set for life after high school, they still have one more season as Pride athletes with unfinished goals they’d like to achieve.
“I want to bring a CCC championship home and hopefully win a conference championship again,” Gonzalez said.
“Right now I want to keep training hard and getting faster,” Baldwin said.“Hopefully, I’ll drop some times at Sections this year.”