Gonzalez honors fallen friend Adenhart in win

ANAHEIM, CA – Orioles pitcher Miguel Gonzalez was asked multiple times, “how’d you get that glove?”

Gonzalez responded simply, “he gave it to me.”

The he Gonzalez is referring to is the late Nick Adenhart, the former pitcher for the Angels who passed away in 2009.

Like anything ever given to anyone close to them, Gonzalez cherishes the glove. He keeps it with him. When he goes on the road, the glove does too.It was a gift from his friend.

A kid born in Guadalajara, Mexico, who grew up in Pacoima – Gonzalez – and the prodigy from Williamsport High School – Adenhart – met as teammates in 2007 with the Arkansas Travelers, then the Angels AA affiliate.

The game brought them together, and like most kids their age, they enjoyed the same things.

“We were great friends,” Gonzalez said. “I’d go to his house. He’d go to mine. (We’d go to) barbecues, go out and have fun like every youngster does. I had good times with him. I spent enough time to know that I really know that guy.”

Their career paths were as far apart as the towns they grew up in. While in Arkansas, Adenhart was considered to be the top prospect in the Angels organization. He was represented by super agent Scott Boras. Gonzalez was signed by the club as an undrafted free agent.

In May of 2008, Adenhart made his Major League debut with the Angels, while Gonzalez was selected by the Red Sox in the Rule 5 Draft in 2008 and missed the next two seasons after undergoing knee surgery and then Tommy John surgery.

On April 8, 2009, Adenhart took the mound for the last time. He gave up seven hits and didn’t allow any runs while striking out five in a 6-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics. He earned a no-decision.

Hours later he was killed by a drunk driver in a hit-and-run accident in Fullerton.

Gonzalez was in Florida in the beginning stages of his rehab for Tommy John surgery when he turned on the TV and saw the devastating news.

“It was a sad thing to watch,” he said.

From that moment on, Adenhart was always with him. He had the glove as a reminder.

On the last mound Adenhart ever pitched on, Gonzalez made his very first Major League start Friday night. He found it appropriate that he used the glove in a game for the very first time.

“I thought it was the perfect time to do it,” Gonzalez said. “He was a great teammate. He gave it to me in ’07 when I was with him at big league camp and (I) thought that was a great thing to do for him and his family.”

He paid tribute to a friend the best way he knew how, he picked up his first career win, pitching seven innings and allowing just one run in a 5-2 win for the Orioles with Adenhart’s glove on his left hand.

“(It) was great for me and obviously for the fans that were out here and family and friends,” Gonzalez said.

“I found out after the game,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. “I think it’s a great gesture. I know our guys, although we lost the game, felt good that Nick could be remembered in such a neat way.”

Gonzalez took the mound at Angel Stadium in front of 42,000 fans –200 of which were family and friends from San Fernando. They were all there to witness a culmination of a long journey for one of their own. Following the knee and Tommy John surgeries, Gonzalez was released by the Red Sox in 2011 before the Orioles signed him as a minor league free agent in March.

The long road back wasn’t lost on Orioles manager Buck Showalter.

“I’m an old fuddy-duddy,” Showalter said. “Not a day goes by that I don’t get an emotional tug at something that’s going on out there. You kind of live through them and pull for them.

“I’ve said 100 times, so many times guys (ages) 28-32, with a lot of things they expose themselves to, if they’re absorbing things, they figure it out a little later on in their career.”

His family loved it as well.

“For all of us, it’s very special, very exciting,” said Miguel’s sister Gricelda Gonzalez. “It was definitely very hard on all of us. He never gave up. He always had faith and kept on going and this is where he’s at now.”