Without a shadow of a doubt the most surprising and pleasant thing in Washington Nationals Spring Training camp this season is pitcher Gio Gonzalez. Coming over from Oakland in a four player trade everyone wondered if what the Nationals gave up was too much for one guy. The NQ questioned it as well.
After spending nearly a week in Viera, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the Nationals unbelievably might have really come out on the right side of that trade. Gonzalez is an absolute team player and has assimilated insanely well with the team. He is energetic, hard working, easy to talk to and he gives off an aura that says “I want to be around this guy.” He seems to have a genuine interest in the team and its fans.
On Saturday after morning workouts Gio came off the practice fields and immediately made for the long line of autograph seekers. Most were there for Stephen Strasburg, but many were more than happy to meet Gio, get his John Hancock and have a picture taken. Oddly enough, Gio was more than happy to oblige. He stayed out front of Space Coast Stadium and signed and took pictures with everyone who wanted one. Even more amazing was his willingness to talk to fans and make them feel appreciated.
He talked with fans, answered questions and among some of the interesting things said was he though he missed Oakland he was glad and excited to begin a new chapter to his career in D.C. However the one thing that he said that got everyone fired up was when he said that “they [the 2012 team] was going to change the culture of baseball in D.C.”
Now, we’ve heard this before. In 2008 Ryan Zimmerman after an Opening Night walk-off home run against the Braves declared the team was tired of losing. Three years later and after plenty of losing Jayson Werth came to D.C. saying he wanted to change the D.C. baseball culture as well, but the only thing we got from that was a bunch of changed beard styles and a ridiculous issue with the Presidents Races.
Is Gio the catalyst of change in Washington? It remains to be seen, but talking with him you can sense the passion and excitement behind his words and it isn’t because a paycheck says he has to say such things. He truly believes it. And the sense around the ST camp this year is many other players are either believing or beginning to believe it also.
We’ll see. But I can tell you this: I believe more in Gio Gonzalez than I do the Mayans and their doomsday calendar and if he wants the opportunity and job of changing the baseball culture in Washington, I am more than willing to indulge him.
In Gio I Trust.