Should New Mexico State infielder Nick Gonzales be taken by the Orioles with the No. 2 pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, it wouldn’t be the first time someone in the Gonzales family came to Maryland for an important phase of their life.
Gonzales’ brother, Daniel, was a linebacker at Navy from 2013-2016 and totaled 175 tackles (six for loss) and four interceptions, with his best year coming as a sophomore in 2014 (86 tackles and three picks). The Midshipmen went 37-16 during Daniel’s time with the program.
Conflicts with his own baseball schedule meant Nick never got to see Daniel play at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, but he still got to watch his brother go to work in some of the best environments the sport has to offer.
“I’ve been to Annapolis quite a few times, even went to some baseball camps over there going through high school and everything,” Nick said on Glenn Clark Radio May 11. “I never got to experience an actual football game there because I was always playing. I got to go to a lot of cool places. I’ve been to the Army-Navy game five times; Notre Dame, been there. A lot of the times I was playing so I wasn’t able to go. My brother played there for four years and I didn’t get to see a game there.”
Now, Nick Gonzales could possibly follow in his brother’s footsteps by achieving his athletic goals in the state of Maryland. Though the most popular player linked to the Orioles in mock drafts is Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin, the Orioles are surely considering Gonzales as well. Gonzales put up video game numbers at the hitter-friendly environment at New Mexico State:
2018: .347/.425/.596 with nine home runs in 220 plate appearances
2019: .432/.532/.773 with 16 home runs in 284 plate appearances
2020: .448/.610/1.155 with 12 home runs in 82 plate appearances
When asked who he tries to model his game after, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Gonzales mentioned Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts (5-foot-9, 180 pounds), who won American League MVP in 2018 and is considered one of the best players in the game.
“He’s not a big guy and I’m not a big guy either, but hard contact is something that I like a lot,” Gonzales said. “I like to hit the ball hard and I like to hit it frequently. That’s something he does.”
Gonzales, who had four multi-homer games in 16 contests this year, was well on his way to a wildly productive season with the Aggies, but the coronavirus pandemic shut down his season in March. Gonzales said it only took him 30 minutes after he found out the season was canceled to shift his focus to the next task at hand.
“I was already getting focused on kind of that offseason shape where you can put on some more strength and some more muscle and you can be doing more things because you’re not worrying about being sore out on the field playing or whatever it may be,” Gonzales said. “So I was kind of smoothly transitioning into that and lifting every day and hitting every day, keeping the arm strong and everything.”
Gonzales played second base from 2018-2019 but took over the shortstop position in 2020. He’s confident he can play shortstop professionally.
“I envision that I can play any position that they need me to play, and I think the ability to hit will carry on,” Gonzales said. “That’s kind of my main focus, and being able to play other positions helps a ton.”
The reason he didn’t play shortstop as a freshman or sophomore at New Mexico State was that current Orioles farmhand Joey Ortiz manned the position those two years. Ortiz, whom Gonzales called his best friend, an elite athlete and a tireless worker, is a well-regarded defender at short. Ortiz was drafted by the Orioles in the fourth round of the 2019 MLB Draft and hit .241/.345/.267 in 228 plate appearances for Short Season-A Aberdeen last summer.
The two led New Mexico State to a 40-22 record in 2018 and a 38-17 mark in 2019. What would it be like to team up with Ortiz again as the keystone combination in Baltimore?
“It’s definitely something that we talk about all the time,” Gonzales said. “He always says, ‘The duo will be back. The duo will be back,’ and everything like that. For me, I’m just so fortunate and blessed to be where I’m at. I don’t even really think about it or just kind of take it all in as it is.”
And if he’s playing in Baltimore with Ortiz, he’ll surely have plenty of opportunities to get to that elusive game at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.
For more from Gonzales, listen ot the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of New Mexico State Athletics