Adrian Gonzalez: Gonzo for God

By Mike Yorkey | Excerpted | March 14 2012

Excitedly, the boys scattered the baseball cards across their bedroom floor without regard for the merchandise's future value on the trading market.

Crease marks? Fuzzy corners? Who cares! This was no time to worry about a mint-condition collection. There were bedroom baseball lineups to be picked, for Pete's sake!

Speaking of Pete, he was available on the carpet. You could do a lot worse than Pete Rose, baseball's all-time hit king. But young Adrian Gonzalez always reached for someone else first: Tony Gwynn. As a San Diego area native and a left-hander, Adrian adored Gwynn, another lefty whose .338 lifetime batting average for the hometown Padres punched his ticket into both Cooperstown and Adrian's heart.

Usually, Will Clark was drafted next. My, oh my, Will the Thrill sure had a sweet stroke. Then, another lefty: Darryl Strawberry. With his pre-pitch bat waggle, exaggerated leg kick, and powerfully loopy swing, the Straw Man was always a favorite.

On and on it went until Adrian and his two older brothers, David Jr. and Edgar, finished their lineups. Each team had to reflect all nine defensive positions. (Stacking the lineup with Mike Schmidt and Wade Boggs—two third baseman—was strictly taboo.)

Out came the plastic bat. Next, the ball—usually a wad of tape or balled-up socks. Finally, the bases…

Uh, let's see. How about the bed, the closet door, and that pile of dirty clothes? What about home plate? Aw, heck, let's get started. Just throw something down on the floor.

And batter up!

Once bedroom baseball started, the boys tried to mimic each player's real-life swing. Every square inch of the room was demarcated for the type of hit it produced. The top of the far wall was a home run. There were plenty of those.

Adrian and Edgar's battles, in particular, were epic.

"When I got back from school, they were already playing," recalled David Jr., who is eight years older than Adrian and four years older than Edgar. "Whoever won, they were the champions of the world. When Adrian won, he'd be shouting it all over house. Edgar would get mad and want to play again. Same thing the other way."

Adrian has come a long way from those halcyon childhood days, bathed as they were in baseball, simplicity, and the SoCal sun. He is now the Boston Red Sox' newly minted superstar, a $154 million slugger who is quickly etching his name into franchise history with his gorgeous swing. After the magnificent season he fashioned in 2011—a .338 batting average that was second best in the major leagues and 213 hits that tied him with Michael Young of Texas for the most in the majors—Adrian is generally acclaimed as one of this generation's greatest hitters.

Just don't expect any of this to faze him. All the hubbub in Hub City elicits little more than a shoulder shrug from this twenty-nine-year-old batsman who's in the prime of his career. Don't let his nonchalance fool you, though. Adrian's levelheaded outlook has as much to do with his deep Christian faith as it does with his mellow personality. He mixes his SportsCenter-highlight abilities with genuine Christlike humility as well as anyone in the game today. For Adrian, the dichotomy fits like a well-oiled mitt.

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