|Gio and I|
After a number of teams including his hometown team, the Miami Marlins and the New York Mets tried to get him, the Washington Nationals stepped up to the plate and hit a home run as they were the ones who found a way to capitalize as they brought him to our Nation's Capitol.
With that being said, besides his family, I was the happiest person for Gio. After seeing Gio pitch in the minor leagues back in April 2006, I knew he was eventually going to be a star at the major league level some day.
I had the privilege and honor of meeting him for the first time in person in May 2009 in Sacramento when he playing for the River Cats. He was signing autographs at a table before the game.
Since then I've gone out of my way to track him down. Where ever he goes I go. I've seen him in Cleveland, Kansas City, Yankee Stadium and now a second time at Citi Field.
My rapport with him is growing fast and furiously just like his stats as a major league pitcher. The last two seasons with the Oakland Athletics, Gio has proven he's on the major league level to stay.
Once he got traded again to the Washington Nationals they turned around and showed him the love he deserved. They rewarded him with a long term contract that will keep him in the District for at least five years. In addition, there's options for a sixth and seventh year.
Once the baseball season started I knew it wouldn't be long before I could see Gio again. The Nationals were playing the Mets at Citi Field the second week of the season.
With being said, I planned accordingly. I raced out of work so I could be in position to see Gio after batting practice Monday night which was the first game of the series.
I went down to the area between third base and left field where the Nationals were taking BP. There were plenty of people there hoping that some players would sign autographs for them when they were done.
Once batting practice ended, all the players ran into the clubhouse except for one. Who was that one you ask. None other than my boy Gio Gonzalez. I tried to get his attention before he came over but I couldn't.
Even after he signed his lucrative long term contract, Gio is still the same kind hearted human being I knew previously. That alone spoke volumes to me. I finally got his attention while he was signing autographs for all the people who wanted one including me. He signed my score book which has become a tradition. He like royalty caters to people of all ages.
He took pictures with some people including me. In matter of fact, I met some people who were down there. I told them what a great guy Gio is.
A few people in particular, Dennis and Rachel Ford who I met briefly had a really nice camera and they took some great photos of Gio. They managed to get a few with me partially in them which they actually e-mailed to me. What a nice gesture that was.
In addition, there were some young fans there who got his autograph. A young man named Nick who was there with his friends Brendan and David called Gio and I quote a "class act."
Gio must have signed autographs for at least a good ten minutes. In this day and age, most athletes have totally lost touch with the real world. It's sad but true. That's just the way it is. It's great to see a guy like Gio who knows how to treat fellow human beings properly regardless of how much money he makes.
Gio has earned his paycheck. He has paid his dues over the years to be where he is. He turns 26 in September and he's been traded numerous times.
Thankfully he has found a place to call home. For that, I'm grateful for him.
I personally think he's a true professional in every sense of the word. He has adjusted to whatever curve ball has been thrown his way to become a major league baseball player.
I got to speak to him for a few minutes while he was signing. We shook hands a few times. I told him he had a rough debut as a National in Wrigley Field in Chicago. He told me and I quote "the umpire was squeezing me." I asked him what he thought of Wrigley, he said and I quote "I loved it."
I gave him my contact information. As a result, he's now following me on Twitter.
I'm his marketing guy. Any time I can plug him I will. This guy is worth every penny he gets. I'm not one to use that phrase too often. If and when you get a chance to meet and greet him, you'll understand where I'm coming from.
Since I saw him at Citi Field, he has started two more games for the Nationals at home. The first one was their home opener against the Cincinnati Reds last Thursday afternoon which the King and our friends Bryan Gilligan and Phil Butleman witnessed in person. Needless to say, I was there in spirit.
Gio was in vintage form. He threw seven shutout innings without walking a batter. He gave up two hits and he struck out seven batters. More importantly, he picked up his first major league hit but not his first National win because the bullpen blew the lead for him. The Nationals did win in extra innings.
Last night Gio was stellar again at Nationals Park as he dominated the Houston Astros throwing another seven shutout innings. This time he gave up two hits, two walks and he fanned eight batters. This time the bullpen did protect the slim 1-0 lead as he picked up his first National win as well as his first National League win and decision. He's now 1-0.
I was there in spirit as always plus there was a special guest in the house, a soldier who's making the rounds to see every Major League ballpark in the next few months.
Stay tuned for the special post I'll be writing about him. His name is R.J. Breisacher. He's living his baseball dream as I write.
Thank you for reading and following along.