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Jon Gonzalez played for the Oregon State team at the third annual Junior Northwest Championship Tournament in Centralia, Wash., Aug. 8-11. (Courtesy photo)
La Grande’s Gonzalez competes at Northwest Championships
La Grande’s Jon Gonzalez got a rare opportunity to take the field with some of the best incoming high school freshmen in the Northwest when he competed for Oregon State at the third annual Junior Northwest Championship Tournament in Centralia, Wash., earlier this month.
Gonzalez was the lone player from Northeastern Oregon on the team that was made up of kids who are expected to graduate from high school in 2017.
“It was crazy. Pretty cool,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez played second base, left field, right field and pitcher during the tournament, including picking up a win on the mound against Washington Northwest.
Oregon State won its first three games of the tournament, defeating Washington Metro South, Washington East and Washington Northwest.
But the team lost two straight games to Oregon Metro, including a 2-1 defeat in the championship game, to end the weekend.
It was the first time that two Oregon teams faced off in the championship game.
“There were a lot of big kids there,” Gonzalez said. “I tried to pitch them outside. I got some of them (out). They popped it up on me quite a bit.”
“It was crazy to see the size of some of those kids,” Gonzalez’s dad, Dan, said.
Gonzalez was able to hold his own at the plate, going 3-for-4 in the weekend opener and 3-for-3 against Washington East. He added a pair of 1-for-2 games as well.
“Our kids were OK. They just put the bat on the ball most of the time,” Gonzalez said. “None of us were standouts. We just knew how to play.”
And while the stats are the first thing looked at, the tournament was more than the players’ performance on the field.
“They wanted to see how you treat the coaches, and more importantly the umpires when they make a bad call,” Dan Gonzalez said. “They said, ‘You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have talent. So, that’s the last thing we look at.’ To me, that was worth it.”
But it wasn’t just the fact that Gonzalez made the team, it was how he made the team.
Gonzalez missed the tryout period for Baseball Northwest.
But a couple of weeks prior to the Centralia tournament, Gonzalez participated in a camp at Oregon State University.
It was there that he caught the eyes of coaches, including OSU assistant Pat Bailey, who recommended Dan Gonzalez look into Baseball Northwest.
After a few email exchanges between Dan Gonzalez and Josh Warner, who is affiliated with Baseball Northwest, Warner received a recommendation from Bailey verifying that Jon was good enough to play.
“In sports, as far as getting recognized, it’s all about timing,” Dan Gonzalez said. “Being in the right place at the right time.”
And so it was with that recommendation that Gonzalez made the trip to Centralia, Wash., where he suited up with the rest of the best 14 and younger baseball players in the region.
Gonzalez has been a staple on Union County Babe Ruth teams in recent years, including playing for the 14-year-old all-star team this summer.
He has also played for summer traveling teams from Snake River Valley, Vale, Nyssa, Baker and Burns.
He spent two nights a week at the gym from
“He’s pretty dedicated to the sport,” Dan Gonzalez said.
The younger Gonzalez hopes to continue in the sport of baseball, continuing to improve his skills to one day play at the highest level possible.
“I just want to get as far as I can go,” Gonzalez said. “If I make it to college ball, (I want to probably play) at Oregon State. If I get past that, probably the Boston Red Sox.”