Gonzalez doesn't wait for holidays to reach out
Slugger embraces LA upon arrival; fills role with Mexican-American fan base
LOS ANGELES -- Some ballplayers really step up to help others at holiday time.
Adrian Gonzalez didn't wait that long.
Gonzalez, acquired from Boston on Aug. 25, seems to be a perfect fit for Los Angeles and the Dodgers. He not only fills a hole in the lineup as a run-producing first baseman, he also fills the hole of Mexican-American Dodgers star player that has existed since the days of Fernandomania.
"Adrian has been active in the Los Angeles community since he joined the Dodgers," said Yvonne Carrasco, assistant director of public relations. "One of the first questions he asked us upon joining the club was what he could do to help LA. He wanted to jump in right away and he has. He has made several trips into the city for various events this offseason with plans to continue to make an impact throughout the season.
"At recent appearances in the Mexican-American and Latino community, we've seen that Gonzalez is greeted with overwhelming enthusiasm, closely comparable to the fan response received when Fernando Valenzuela visits with the community."
Gonzalez was born in San Diego the son of Mexican parents, then spent most of his formative years living in Tijuana before the family returned to California, with Adrian attending Eastlake High School in Chula Vista. His father played on the Mexican national baseball team and Adrian will play for Team Mexico for the third time in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
He and wife Betsy, who live in La Jolla, founded the Adrian and Betsy Gonzalez Foundation to empower underprivileged youth in athletics, education and health.
"Our foundation has been based in California since its founding," Gonzalez said. "This is especially great as we can begin to create programs in the LA area similar to those we had in Boston and that is our intention. These range from scholarship programs to cause-related donations.
"We've felt a real connection to LA since I came over. My wife and I wanted to get involved as soon as we could. I feel even more inspired to get involved because most of our fans are Latino, most of Mexican descent like me. I'm overwhelmed with support from them, it's special and I just want to do all I can to give back. It's been a perfect fit."
After the season ended, Gonzalez rededicated the Tijuana ballfield where he and brother Edgar played as youths and footed the bill for the field's renovation. The mayor of Tijuana was on hand for the ceremony and thanked the Gonzalezes for being an inspiration and positive role models for Tijuana children. They were honored by the city of Tijuana that day as well.
"LA has been, since Valenzuela, the favorite of all Mexicans," said Tijuana mayor Carlos Bustamante. "LA has millions of people of Mexican descent and when they ask [Gonzalez] where he's from, and he says Tijuana, that really is important to us. We need positive examples. And the way the brothers have evolved into stars gives kids an example of what can be done."
Earlier this month, Gonzalez, Valenzuela and Luis Cruz joined the Dodgers and Dodgers Dream Foundation at the annual Children's Holiday Party. Three days later, Gonzalez and his wife joined Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina at the 12th Annual Winter Wonderland Holiday Celebration and East L.A. On Ice event.
The Gonzalez family donated and distributed thousands of toys to children in attendance. It was a family day as Betsy's cousin from Guadalajara and her brother helped out for the day. Adrian and Betsy stated this would be an annual event for the family and that they'd once again work with the Dodgers Community Affairs department in identifying a community that would benefit from a donation of toys for children donated by their family.
"I'm very glad Adrian has taken on this kind of leadership role," Molina said.
Gonzalez's charitable foundation is committed to supporting Padres Contra El Cancer, a local organization committed to improving the quality of life for Latino children with cancer and their families.
And Gonzalez will support manager Don Mattingly's upcoming charitable event. He has confirmed attendance at "A Night of Entertainment with Don Mattingly hosted by George Lopez" on Jan. 24.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.