An Interview Series: Playing Baseball in College with Zach Gonzales

Zach Gonzales, baseball prospect and future computer science major, was born in Los Angeles and moved to Nashville when he was just 9 years old. After living in Nashville for six or seven years, Zach moved to Chicago and now attends Latin, the same school his uncle went to. Zach will be attending Swarthmore next year and plans on being a part of the baseball team. You were recently a part of the second college recruitment signing day. Tell me about the process of how you decided to play baseball in college. It’s funny. Halfway through junior year I was set on playing baseball in college; I really wanted to do it. I had been emailing coaches throughout the summer, and I went to a showcase. Swarthmore had never really been that high on my radar until after the showcase. The coach emailed me and told me he would love to talk to me about playing for him. I went to a camp that they had on their campus, and I wasn’t expecting much at all because I didn’t think I would like Swarthmore. That same weekend, I did a tour at Princeton and Columbia, and I could see myself not playing baseball and being happier there because they are really cool schools. I was kind of down on the whole idea especially since I had the shoulder injury at the time so I was kind of annoyed with baseball. The campus was super awesome, and the coaches were really nice. I went on a tour with the players and it just seemed like a really good fit and situation that I wanted to be in. I thought about it for a week, I called the coach, and I told him I was interested in playing. He said, “I can help. If you apply early decision, I can basically all but guarantee that you get in.” So I called him back and said I was willing to do it. That’s awesome. It’s a big relief. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing it just so I could be done with it. I went back and forth a lot during the week after it, but I haven’t had any buyer’s remorse yet. I’m still really happy with my decision. How do you think you’re going to balance playing sports and schoolwork? That was one of the main things I talked to players and coaches about. The academics definitely come first, especially being a DIII/smaller school. The thing about being a part of a team is that there’s always going to be someone to study with that’s on your schedule, which is kind of nice. I was talking to a kid on the team who I stayed with overnight and he said it’s really easy to be a part of not only just the baseball team if you try to do it all. You can have a normal college experience if you want to just try and do it. I feel like being able to balance sports and academics is going to be hard, but at the same time, being on such a strict practice schedule could add structure. That was one of the things I was debating on why I didn’t want to play baseball because computer science, and I’m thinking about doing engineering too, is a demanding major. When I was telling that to the coach, the one thing he said was that baseball is going to be two-four hours a day, and if I went to any other school where I wasn’t playing baseball, I would find other things to do in two-four hours that wasn’t work anyway, so I figured why not do something that I love in those two-four hours. What position do you play? Right now I play outfield and pitcher. I play first base a little bit too. In college, I’m just going to be a pitcher because once you get to college there’s more of a separation between pitchers and field players, which is kind of nice because of just being able to focus on one thing. Hitting and pitching are such different skills. Plus, people start throwing much harder in college, which is never fun to hit against. No longer having that fear in the back of your mind of getting hit by a pitch is nice. Have you ever been hit by a pitch? I have been hit a few times. The worst was probably when I got hit directly on my ankle. The ankle and the elbow are never fun to get hit in. I’ve never gotten hit in the head, luckily. One of the scariest things I’ve ever done in baseball is that I was up next to hit and the kids in front of me who was also a lefty got hit in the face with a pitch and broke his nose. The game stopped for ten minutes. I was up next, and the same kid was pitching. It was the second kid in a row he had hit so I was absolutely terrified in the box because I had been scared of the ball until I was ten or eleven, and this was when I was nine. I just swung at the first three pitches, struck out, and walked away perfectly content with that. Do you think when you get to college you’re going to want to pursue baseball as a career or do you want to do something else? No. I know I’m not going to play professionally, and I’m not going to get into sports management or anything like that. I’m interested in computer science right now. I haven’t done a whole lot with it. I took a programming class sophomore year and I’m trying to learn Java Script right now just online (coding). It just always seemed interesting to me. I don’t really plan on pursuing a career that has to do with baseball, but I guess I wouldn’t rule it out. Also, I hope my kids play baseball, and I can coach their teams. What is the greatest goal that you want to accomplish? I don’t know if I have a set goal that I want to accomplish. But whatever I end up doing later in life, I want to be the best at it. I always like to be the best at things. Clearly, it doesn’t always happen, but it’s a fun goal to shoot for.]]>