Home sweet homecoming for Gonzo

Home sweet homecoming for Gonzalez

DETROIT -- The ovation at Comerica Park was warm and short, but it meant a lot to Arizona outfielder Luis Gonzalez.

When the Detroit Tigers traded Gonzalez to the Diamondbacks for Karim Garcia on Dec. 28, 1998, surely they thought the next time they'd see him it would have been an Old Timers' Game.

"I'm the first guy called out, 'A' for Arizona," said Gonzalez, who turns 38 on Sept. 3. "It's nice to be back here.

"For me, you hate to say it, but it kind of turned my career around when they wanted to go with younger players. I felt like I had good years left. That's how baseball is. Things actually worked out for me, going out to play in Arizona."

Good years? How about five All-Star Games, two playoff appearances and a World Series ring (2001) since leaving Detroit? Gonzalez appeared in the ninth inning, knocked an RBI double and scored in the AL's 7-5 victory.

They see him quite a bit in Detroit, actually. With little in the way of geographic rivals and being such a young franchise, the Diamondbacks find themselves paired with the Tigers as a "rival" in the Interleague schedule.

But if there was any time that folks could have reasonably expected Gonzalez to fade away, it was last year.

Gonzalez fought pain through 104 games before undergoing Tommy John elbow ligament transfer surgery last Aug. 2, and underwent a rehab that was typically grueling. But a .283 batting average with 12 home runs and 51 RBIs in 86 games this year is an indication that Gonzalez still has quite a bit to offer.

All-Star Game 2005

"I think I appreciate this one more because of the fact that last year was a struggle for me," he said. "It's a real roller-coaster ride. You have some good days, some bad days. To start the season off the way I did and make the All-Star team is special, because after last year, there was a lot of doubt."

Now Gonzalez is seeing the fruits of his own youth movement.

On June 26, 1998, Gonzalez's wife, Christine, gave birth to triplets, Megan, Jacob and Alyssa, and regularly brought them to the old Tiger Stadium. Now, Jacob is old enough to get to the field level with his dad. Gonzalez said his son recognizes the fellow stars, even though "they look a little different than on PlayStation."

Of course, Jacob knows to ignore factors such as age and go for consistency when picking his favorite player, whether on the video console or in person.

"Consistency counts," Gonzalez said. "That's what I strive for every time I go out there and play, to be a good, steady ballplayer."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.