Former Bomber projected as high draft pick

Herald file photo
Former Dubois County Bomber Nick Gonzales is expected to be one of the first names called in July when the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft is held at the Holland Center in Omaha, Neb.

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

Just two short years ago, Nick Gonzales called Dubois County his home for the summer. Locals had the chance to go to Huntingburg’s League Stadium and watch the New Mexico State University infielder do his thing and perform for a Bombers squad that went 25-16 in the regular season.

Now, with the 2020 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft fast approaching, Gonzales is expected to be one of the first names called in July — something he never would have imagined if someone told him that while he played for the Bombers in 2018.

“I probably would’ve just laughed and said, ‘You’re crazy’ or something,” Gonzales said. “Where I was at then, it’s crazy to think where I could be now or where I’m at now, and I’m super fortunate.”

Playing in Dubois County was a different experience for Gonzales, and he learned a lot while he suited up for the Bombers that year. It gave him some maturity he carries with him to this day.

“You’re out there kind of on your own, so you got to do stuff on your own, and also just playing baseball in a different part of the country that I’m used to with different groups of guys and you just learn to fit in and to thrive and to have fun over there,” he said.

He plays second base on a regular basis, but he was moved to shortstop that summer. Gonzales said he benefitted from the move because it increased his athleticism, and he noticed he became more athletic defensively.

Gonzales lauded the area because of how nice everybody was and the love they all had for baseball. He also took a liking to the atmosphere and the environment he surrounded himself in that summer.

“The area was beautiful,” Gonzales said. “It was just something I’ve never really seen before, all the corn, and it was extremely humid and hot, but it was beautiful there, and I loved it.”

The former Bomber raked in numerous honors as a sophomore in 2019. Gonzales won the NCAA batting title with a .432 average, was named an All-American by six different organizations, and the Western Athletic Conference named him both First Team All-Conference and Academic All-Conference.

The attention started to build then, and then he thought it definitely escalated when he was named MVP of the Cape Cod League while playing for the Cotuit Kettleers. He batted .351 in 42 games with seven home runs and 33 runs driven in.

“For me to go out and do that was special, and that’s something I needed to do in order to prove myself on a different level because of where I play and the altitude and everything like that,” he said. “Going out and doing that and performing well was huge for me and very important in the next step for this journey.”

Gonzales didn’t have any statistical goals going into his junior year in 2020, but he wanted to win the WAC, both in the regular season and the tournament. He also hoped to get to the regional and win some games there.

He continued to marvel at the dish when he increased his slash line, and made pitchers pay with his power. In 16 games, Gonzales took a middle, opposite field approach. He belted 12 home runs, four shy of the total he had in 55 games last year.

Gonzales is from Arizona, but has stayed in New Mexico to continue training. He considers himself fortunate to be able use a facility that is open and put in the work there. Gonzales will lift weights before picking up a bat.

He’ll engage in tee work, machine work and short toss. Gonzales is also spending a lot of time fielding, though not on the surfaces he’d like to, with COVID-19 forcing a change in people’s routines and a stoppage in games for him.

“I miss it a ton,” he said. “I think the hardest part is just not being around all your guys and all your friends, and also just the unknown. You put in all the work for a whole year expecting to get some of type recurring or some type of satisfaction or joy or motivation to do better, and we kind of didn’t get that this year.”

The July draft is scheduled for the Holland Center in Omaha, Neb. Some prospects attend the event in person, but Gonzales said he will most likely have a party at home with his family and a few friends to celebrate the occasion.

He reflected on how hard he’s worked for this, knowing that a once-in-a-lifetime feeling is just around the corner, and that he’s ready to get after it.

Gonzales knows how grateful he’ll be once it’s okay to return to the field and get back in action.

“It’s my passion and my love and it was kind of taken away from me — taken away from everybody fairly quickly, and I think everyone’s just going to be super excited to get back out there and play again,” Gonzales said.




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