Zumaya made impression on Gonzalez
Padres first baseman remembers facing reliever in high school
SAN DIEGO -- Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez remembers being a senior in high school batting against a sophomore pitcher from his rival high school. The pitcher stood out because of his mid-80's fastball at age 15 and his intense demeanor on the mound.
Years later, Gonzalez knows plenty about that kid. And when Joel Zumaya came back Friday night throwing fastballs in the upper 90's, Gonzalez was happy for him.
"That was my first thing: Where's his fastball going to be at? And then his first fastball's at 98," Gonzalez said. "He hasn't lost that. I'm happy that he's healthy and he's back. Hopefully he'll help the Tigers get back to contend with the White Sox in first place."
Gonzalez finally had to deal with that fastball for the first time in his career Sunday, when he stepped to the plate against Zumaya in the seventh inning. His older brother, Edgar, has just drawn a full-count leadoff walk, and after back-to-back 97 mph fastballs, Adrian turned on a 99 mph heater for a single through the right side.
Both Zumaya and the Gonzalez brothers lived in Chula Vista, Calif., just outside of San Diego, but they went to rival high schools. Edgar was older, though he ended up facing Zumaya in the Double-A Eastern League. Adrian was two years older than Zumaya, so he faced him during their high school rivalry game.
"Obviously, he wasn't what he is now," Gonzalez said. "He was a sophomore at the time, and you could see that he was a kid with a lot of talent that was going to turn out to be a good pitcher."
He doesn't remember the result, though Zumaya remembers Gonzalez getting him for a big hit or two that added to the resume that made the first baseman the top overall pick in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft.
"With aluminum bats, he dropped some serious bombs," Zumaya said.
Gonzalez noticed Zumaya's name a couple years later when the Tigers drafted him. Gonzalez has an easier time keeping track of the pitcher these days. For Gonzalez, it's a source of local pride.
"I think we all pay attention. We all care about each other, and we all want everybody to do well," Gonzalez said. "I think there's a lot of rivalry with the South County [high schools] and North County here in San Diego. And so, us being from the South County, the South Bay, we all want to see guys do well out of the South Bay so we can have some kind of bragging rights towards the North County, even though North County has players that come out every year."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.