Edgar Gonzalez plugged away in the Minor Leagues for nine seasons before getting his break, a chance to play in the Major Leagues with his brother and for the team he grew up rooting for.
Surely the backyard games in nearby Bonita are merely just distant memories. But they're not -- not even close.
In fact, Edgar Gonzalez can just as easily recall the day his Adrian did something so mischievous in one of those childhood games as he can anything that's happened to him during a whirlwind and altogether improbable rookie season.
"We had a batting cage in our backyard in Bonita," Edgar Gonzalez explains. "We had a chair in back for the strike zone. If the ball hit it, then it was a strike. We played a lot in that cage and at first we kind of split the games. They were pretty even."
Edgar Gonzalez, standing in the clubhouse at PETCO Park, pauses before offering the same kind of smile he's essentially worn since making his Major League debut on June 5. He then shakes his head, in mock disgust.
"Then Adrian developed this pitch. ... I think he started reading about it behind my back, about how to throw it. This pitch, it started out behind my back and actually landed in the strike zone. I couldn't hit it. From then on, he won most of the games. All because of that one pitch."
That competitive drive that was there for the Gonzalez brothers when they were young remains.
"If I didn't feel like working out one day, he would push me. And if he didn't feel like he wanted to work out, I would push him," Edgar Gonzalez said. "We were pushing each other all the time. We still are."
The Gonzalez brothers, separated by four years -- Edgar is 30, Adrian is 26 -- couldn't have taken more divergent paths to the Major Leagues if they tried.
Edgar Gonzalez was a 30th-round pick of Tampa Bay in 2000 after playing at nearby San Diego State.
Adrian Gonzalez skipped college altogether and was the first player selected in the 2000 Draft by the Florida Marlins out of Eastlake High in Chula Vista.
Edgar Gonzalez is currently with his sixth organization, having spent parts of nine seasons playing in the Minor Leagues and parts of the past four seasons playing in Triple-A, where many a career stalls just shy of the ultimate goal: the Major Leagues.
Adrian Gonzalez was traded from Florida to Texas in 2003. He was in the Major Leagues by 22 and played in 59 games with the Rangers before being traded to San Diego in 2006 along with pitcher Chris Young in a one-sided deal that continues to pay dividends for the Padres.
And while the Gonzalez brothers have played together in the winter in Mexico, they had never played on the same field in the Major Leagues before May 12 in Chicago, where Edgar Gonzalez joined the Padres, playing second base, not far from where his younger brother Adrian Gonzalez was standing at first base.
"It's been great," said David Gonzalez Jr., 33 of Chula Vista, Adrian and Edgar's older brother. "It's basically a dream come true for everyone. Baseball is our life. My family has had an air conditioning business across the border for the last 33 years. My dad has always said that we know two things -- air conditioning and baseball."
Adrian and Edgar Gonzalez were born in San Diego and lived in San Ysidro before they moved to Tijuana in 1983. The family moved back, to Bonita, in 1990. The sons of a former member of the Mexican National Team, baseball came naturally for the brothers.
"His work ethic and perseverance made him a role model for me."
-- Adrian Gonzalez|
on brother Edgar
"Even when we were in Mexico, they had a big room where they would play ball," a brother, David Gonzalez Jr., said. "We would make a baseball out of paper, put tape on it and use a little bat and play. We would pick our teams and whoever won went on to play the next guy."
David Gonzalez Jr., who often can be seen at PETCO Park, said the competitive bug in his younger siblings dates far back in their youth.
"I learned pretty quickly that I couldn't take it easy with them," David Gonzalez Jr. said. "My dad would take us all to the park. I would play shortstop, Edgar would play second base and Adrian would be at first base. Adrian was younger so every time that we would throw the ball to first, we'd take it easy on him. He got mad and told us to throw harder."
To be sure, Adrian Gonzalez wasn't considered a runt often. He reached the Major Leagues in just his fifth professional season. He is on pace to surpass the 30 home runs and 100 RBIs he had last season.
"He's been a huge part in the amount of runs we've scored. Without him, I don't know where we would be," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He's played pretty much every day. He's been tremendous, with the power, the RBIs, the defense, he's been an All-Star performer, no doubt. He's been our best player."
For as quickly as he moved toward the Major Leagues, Adrian Gonzalez drew inspiration from Edgar, who bounced around from organization to organization, being passed by other players and passed up by other teams.
"His work ethic and perseverance made him a role model for me," Adrian Gonzalez said. "I understood the politics of baseball. Once I got to a higher level ... I saw where people weren't always where they deserved to be. It's not always about the most talented or the right player but who the organization picked higher."
David Gonzalez Jr. believes that Adrian's sudden rise through the Minor Leagues and into the Major Leagues only fueled Edgar's drive to continue along a path of much resistance where, seemingly no matter how well he did, he wasn't making much progress.
"I think one of the things that helped him was having Adrian move at a faster pace in the Minor Leagues and then to the Major Leagues," David Gonzalez Jr. said. "I think that it was his competitive edge that made Edgar so driven, knowing that he could play at that same level as Adrian."
Edgar Gonzalez finally arrived, and with the way he's hit since he was recalled from Triple-A Portland and the way he's played second base in place of Tadahito Iguchi, who separated his shoulder in June, it appears as if he's not going anywhere for a change.
Edgar's impact has been a surprise to about everyone other than Adrian, who knew what his brother was capable of. He just needed others to see it.
"I played with him in winter ball and in the offseason. You can see a swing that's going to be successful and one that's not. He's always had that," Adrian Gonzalez said. "It has been a lot of fun. It's something we've dreamed about. We're enjoying every minute of it."