All-star 1st baseman. Gold Glove winner. Hometown hero of the San Diego Padres.
Adrian Gonzalez has had many accomplishments in his young baseball career. But the most impressive feat might have been the devastating sliders he handled as a 14-year-old kid in the Tijuana pick-up games that dominated his youth.
"Playing against guys twice my age, even some former major leaguers, I knew if I got a hit it was really something," said Gonzalez. "They do anything they can to win down there, and I do mean anything."
Good preparation for the 98-mph Tim Lincecum fastballs he would face many years later. But with his father, David, a former first baseman on the Mexican national team, and his two older brothers, one of whom, Edgar, is a second baseman for the Padres, playing on the same team, it was also a chance to reinforce life lessons about perseverance and discipline.
"They taught me it's ok to struggle," said Gonzalez. "You just keep going. Even if you feel like you want to give up. Keep going and you'll see results."
It's a lesson Gonzalez is trying to teach to young kids he feels need it the most.
It's About the Kids
Tucked away in the orange groves of northeastern San Diego is the San Pasqual Academy, a residential education campus designed specifically for foster teens.
With an on-site, accredited high school, a computer for each student and 238 acres of rural land, it's a place where dependents of the juvenile court in San Diego County can complete their education in an idyllic and positive atmosphere.
It's also a place where Gonzalez believes lives can be significantly changed for the better.
"My wife Betsy and I are always looking for ways to serve underprivileged youth through our foundation (Adrian and Betsy Gonzalez Foundation). The academy seemed like a perfect fit."
Gonzalez was instantly attracted to the academy's emphasis on athletics--"Most of the important things I learned in life I learned from baseball"--and believes sports is a great way to reach young people who've been overlooked in society.
"It teaches you that work ethic and discipline matter," said Gonzalez. "Every sport, not just baseball, has its own unique way of teaching kids things about life they need to know."
And what better way to raise money for this program than with one of the oldest sports in the history of the world.