In his first weekend as a manager, Andy Gonzalez had his burgeoning skills put to the test right away.
The Boise Hawks’ first-year skipper oversaw back-to-back extra-inning games Saturday and Sunday against the Eugene Emeralds, losing the first in 11 and winning the second in 13.
“Quite a start,” Gonzalez said with a smile. “A lot of different game situations, managing the bullpen, putting in pinch runners. It’s been a great experience already.”
The Hawks could not pick up the win Monday in Boise’s home opener, falling 7-2 to the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes at Memorial Stadium.
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Gonzalez spent last season as the Hawks’ hitting coach, his first coaching job after 13 professional seasons as a player.
He played 91 major-league games for the White Sox, Indians and Marlins from 2007-09.
“I always wanted to be a manager. … To me, it’s the closest way to feel like you’re still playing,” Gonzalez said. “I’m not saying I’m good already, but they must’ve seen something in me.”
The Colorado Rockies saw plenty to like in the 34-year-old, who oversaw a group of hitters who tied for the Northwest League lead in batting average (.261) and notched the second-most hits (668).
Part of Gonzalez’s playing career played a big role in getting him where he is today. Growing up and well into his time as a pro, he wanted to learn every position, and wound up nearly playing every one of them. He played third base, shortstop and first base in the majors, and at least 20 games at every position but pitcher and catcher in the minors and Puerto Rico winter league.
“I knew every spot up and down. I was kind of a super utility guy, so I was in a unique position, which I think helped me when I got into coaching,” Gonzalez said. “I felt like the on-field manager when I was playing, and I always sat by the manager during games.”
In the dugout, it’s not easy to pick Gonzalez out from his players, still looking capable of putting on the glove again. Self-described as “naturally quiet,” Gonzalez combines his youth and energy with a demeanor to which players have gravitated.
“He’s awesome. He’ll come out and field balls sometimes, and he can hit (batting practice) pretty well still,” said outfielder Eric Toole, who hit .296 for the Hawks last season. “He obviously knows the hitting aspect, but he always knew what was going on everywhere. He definitely knows what he’s doing.”
Though the desire to rack up wins is natural at any level, the truth of short-season Single-A baseball is it’s all about development. That goes for coaches, too. Gonzalez said he has leaned on his veteran staff, which includes former All-Star closer Doug Jones as his pitching coach, veteran minor-league manager Scott Little as hitting coach and Fred Nelson, who has spent more than 30 years in a variety of front-office positions, as development supervisor.
“I think Andy, with his demeanor, it’s what you want at this level,” Nelson said. “With his versatility and his knowledge, his personality, I think he can coach in the big leagues. He wasn’t a star there; he was a role player. He had to learn stuff, know the fundamentals to get to that level. He’s learning on the job, but we’ll all be able to help him through it. I think he’ll really help the kids grow, and that the club made a tremendous choice.”
Four games into his managerial career, Gonzalez has relished the opportunity. With plenty of time ahead of him to grow, he’s eager for what’s ahead.
“I know I wanted to manage,” he said. “I don’t really think it would have happened quickly, but I’m glad it did.”
Volcanoes 7, Hawks 2
The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes jumped on two Boise Hawks pitchers in the top of the eighth inning Monday, scoring six runs to break a 1-1 tie and get comfortably ahead of the home team in its first game this season at Memorial Stadium.
Boise (1-3) committed three errors, leading to four unearned runs. Starter Antonio Santos went 7 2/3 innings in front of an announced crowd of 3,427, striking out five without a walk and allowing six runs (three earned) on 10 hits. Shortstop Garrett Hampson had three of the Hawks’ five hits in his pro debut, including a triple.