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Perrotto: Marco Gonzales Was Born to be a Baseball Player

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Marco Gonzales, Pittsburgh Pirates

In the case of Marco Gonzales, it is not cliché to say he was born to be a baseball player.

The Pittsburgh Pirates newly acquired left-hander was born on Feb. 16, 1992, in Lakeland, Fla., though his family lived in Fort Collins, Colo.

So why Florida? It was because his father Frank, a pitcher in the Detroit Tigers’ minor-league system, was about to participate in his first major-league spring training camp at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland.

“I was born into it, so this has been my life for 31 years now,” Gonzales said Monday on a Zoom call with Pirates’ beat writers on Monday, six days after being acquired from the Atlanta Braves in a trade. “It’s ingrained into my DNA.”

Marco Gonzales’ professional career has surpassed that of his father. The younger Gonzales was the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick in 2013 and has pitched in the major leagues with St. Louis (2014-15, 2017) and the Seattle Mariners (2018-23) for all or parts of nine seasons.

Frank Gonzales spent 11 seasons as a professional pitcher from 1989-99 but topped out at the Triple-A level. That included a stint with Calgary, then the Pirates’ top farm team in the Pacific Coast League, in 1997 in which he made 25 relief appearances.

The elder Gonzales has become a baseball lifer. He is getting set for his second season as manager of the North Colorado Owlz in the independent Pioneer League, a partner league of Major League Baseball.

Frank Gonzales has been a coach at the professional, college and high school levels ever since his playing career ended.

“My dad’s taught me a lot about being a pro,” Marco Gonzales said. “Always told me that there’s someone out there working harder than you and to not take any day for granted because you really don’t know when this time could be over, so that’s what I’m gonna do.”

Gonzales took his dad’s advice to heart last season when he was limited to 10 starts with the Mariners because of a nerve problem in his left forearm. The injury required surgery, though Gonzales is back to working out regularly this winter and expected to be a full participant when spring training begins in mid-February.

Being around professional baseball from such a young age also helped Gonzales realize it is a business. Thus, he was not shocked when the Mariners traded him to the Braves on Dec. 3 and Atlanta dealt him to the Pirates just two days later.

“Extremely helpful,” Gonzales said when asked about the benefit of being exposed to pro ball so young. “The inner workings and being around the guys, being around the locker room, just the culture of it all. But also, the traveling of it all, the staying at hotels. There’s things early in my life that my parents did for me that made me very adaptable as a grown man. Now with my own kids as well, taking them through this process, it really gives me an interesting perspective on an inside look at that for sure.”

Gonzales became one of the Mariners’ leaders during his six seasons in Seattle and has developed his rotation as a consummate pro and a strong clubhouse presence. Manager Scott Servais is going to miss the left-hander.

“He’s a very special person,” Servais said last week during the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn.

Not surprising considering Gonzales has been around baseball since the time he took his first breath.

John Perrotto is a columnist for Pittsburgh Baseball Now and has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates and MLB since 1988.

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