- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Most of Gio Gonzalez’s spring training rental apartment is bare. It’s not surprising. It’s been mere hours since he moved into it, ditching the hotel room he’d holed up in for the first two weeks of the Washington Nationals’ workouts in February.

But Max and Yoly Gonzalez already have made it a home.

On the stove three pans are brimming with Max’s latest creation, arroz con picadillio. As he fills a plate with rice, beans and a mouthwatering ground beef-tomato concoction, he assures his diners that the food is not spicy, though it does come with a warning.

“Remember,” Max says, his voice equal parts Jersey City tough guy and hard-working Cuban immigrant, “I don’t have all my tools here.”

His son, Gio, sits quietly across the table as his father points to an open space off the living room that’s been set up to look like an office. Could be a guest room, Max suggests. Gio lets a tired smile cross his face.

Gio Gonzalez's childhood pursuits often led him to a baseball diamond. His youthful passion paid off when he was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the first round in the 2004 amateur draft. (Gonzalez family)
Gio Gonzalez’s childhood pursuits often led him to a baseball diamond. His ... more >

Gio is the one living here for the next month, the one toiling under the sun in Viera, Fla., each day as he becomes the No. 2 starter in the rotation. But wherever Gio is, his family isn’t far behind.

“With my plan that I have for my family,” he says, “It’s going to benefit all of us.”

Gio talks mostly in “We’s”. He’s an All-Star and the owner of a five-year, $42 million contract with the Nationals that could last seven years and be worth $65 million when all is said and done. Gio did that, earned that. Still, he constantly thinks in the plural.

“I figure,” he says, “I have this chance to keep us all together. … My family, they’ve done so much for me. The memories they gave me, I don’t want to lose that.”

When the Nationals approached Gonzalez this winter about a contract extension, days after dealing away enough of their farm system to fall from No. 1 to No. 12 in Major League Baseball as ranked by Baseball America, he jumped at it. Then he bought himself a Lamborghini, his mom a Rolls Royce and his dad a Ferrari.

“We had a lot of struggles,” Gio says, before he seems to consider this an understatement and revises it.

“Are you kidding me? We didn’t have nothing. I remember paying for haircuts with quarters. That’s why when I buy my parents any car they want, I do it as, ‘Man, we came from nothing to something.’ “

Building a life

The thumb of Gonzalez’s new red glove has the word ‘Hialeah’ sewn into it, an ever-present reminder of his roots.

A city of roughly 225,000 in the northeast corner of Miami-Dade County, Hialeah, Fla., is 96 percent Hispanic - and more than 62 percent of it is Cuban or Cuban-American. It’s the second-largest concentration of Cubans in the United States, and for Gonzalez it will always be home.

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