LHS’s Gonzalez brings toughness to Morningside College baseballLUVERNE — Sports do not exist without toughness. It’s the reason athletes sit alone, staring inside their locker with nothing but headphones and a song which will awake them physically and mentally. It’s an aspect of sports not only seen in sweat and blood, but in tears shed due to the knowledge of what was sacrificed only to fall short.
LUVERNE — Sports do not exist without toughness. It’s the reason athletes sit alone, staring inside their locker with nothing but headphones and a song which will awake them physically and mentally. It’s an aspect of sports not only seen in sweat and blood, but in tears shed due to the knowledge of what was sacrificed only to fall short.
Luverne’s Richard Gonzalez is tough. The numbers show it. Coaches see it. The fact he decided against Tommy John surgery to fix a ulnar collateral ligament tear before his senior year due to the fact he would miss what looked to be the final time he would lace up football and baseball cleats makes him tough.
It’s Gonzalez’s toughness which drew the eye of Morningside College baseball coach Brian Drent.
“I love his athleticism and his toughness,” Drent said. “I know he’s a hard-nosed football player.
“Baseball is an everyday sport, so you want tough guys to play baseball. You want guys who can hit with two strikes and guys who can get hits when you need them. That’s what jumped out at me about Richie.”
It was that toughness Gonzalez possessed which led to him signing with Morningside in early April to play baseball. Luverne baseball coach Mike Wenninger’s office has 17 Cardinal hats hanging up worn by players he coached who moved on to play college baseball. Gonzalez will be 18.
“You see his toughness on the football field,” Wenninger said. “He was very hard to tackle.
“At bat, you can see he’s determined just in his swings and his demeanor. And when he’s pitching, he’ll run deep into counts and still get batters out. It’s that determination he has. He has that grit you’re looking for.”
The numbers don’t lie either. In his senior football season, Gonzalez averaged 7.2 yards per carry and 63.7 yards per game on his way to 701 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. As for baseball, Gonzalez has 16 hits in 34 at bats, good enough for a .471 batting average and .525 on-base percentage, to go along with nine RBIs and two stolen bases this season.
Gonzalez seems to be tough to the bone, considering the lefty is able to not only throw from the outfield without having surgery to fix the tear in his thumb, but looks to be ready to pitch an inning here and there for the Cardinals.
“I went to the doctor and he was very surprised that when I throw from the outfield there’s no pain,” Gonzalez said. “There could be a chance it reattached to the bone, as long as there’s no pain involved.
“I didn’t want to miss my senior year of football and baseball and I felt it was my last year.”
Gonzalez has his share of superstitions. He never touches the white chalk when running on and off the field, he touches the distance sign on every center-field fence and he always taps the outside of the plate and the inside of the plate before every at bat. Gonzalez’s most important tradition is the fact he is always the last player on the field and in the locker room.
“He’s literally always the last guy to leave the dugout after a game,” Wenninger said. “He will be the last one to leave the field and the last guy to clear things out.
“It’s his quark.”
Gonzalez doesn’t see being the last player on the field as any superstition.
“I just like being the last one out,” Gonzalez said. “It’s always been that way.
“For football and baseball, I’m always the last one out of the locker room. I like to think about what happened. If a game doesn’t go well, I sit there and think about what I can do to improve. If a game goes well, I think about why it went that way. I just reflect on the game.”
The tough guy has a soft spot for baseball.
“I started t-ball when I was 5 years old and when I finallygot to the age where you could pitch is when I fell in love with it,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t know what it is about it, but I just love playing the game of baseball.
“I just live for baseball. During the winter, all I do is try to get someone to throw to.”
After signing with Morningside, Gonzalez has at least four more years of throwing.
Daily Globe Sports Editor Chris Murphy may be reached at 376-7328.