West Point High School rising junior Zachary “Zach” Gonzalez, 16, had the opportunity this summer to play and practice his baseball craft with teen players from across the country.
Zach made Baseball Factory’s national team and headed to Bradenton, Fla., July 27-31 to train and play in the Baseball Factory’s National World Series in Pirate City, the spring training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Zach, who plays first base, has played baseball since he was 6 and made West Point High School’s varsity baseball team as a freshman.
Zach’s mother, Monica Gonzalez, set up a Go Fund Me page before heading to Florida to help pay for the cost of Zach’s tournament. Gonzalez said they were lucky enough to get all of Zach’s tournament expenses covered by donations.
“His expenses were $3,499 for training, transportation and food,” Gonzalez said. “We got it all taken care of by donation from the Go Fund Me and people donating outside of the Go Fund Me. I only had to pay for my expenses to go and we were really blessed.”
Zach had 12 players on his team, with 91 players total on all eight teams. He said only two players came from Virginia.
The Rays defeated the three other American League teams, then matched off against the winning National League team in the World Series.
Zach’s team won the championship 7-6 in the last inning, after Zach hit a walk-off single.
“These games allowed for six batters. I was the sixth batter, there was one out left and the bases were loaded,” Zach said. “I hit a single, got onto first base, two of my teammates ran home and one of my teammates was still left on third base.”
The officials skipped the inning since Zach was the sixth batter for his team and there was one out left. His teammate on third base then rolled over to home plate and scored, winning the championship, according to Zach.
After the championship, Zach was named Baseball Factory’s Gatorade MVP.
Training and practice
Before winning the championship, Zach and his team trained and practiced every day.
“We did training, exercises and played against the other teams, we were outside from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. almost every day,” Zach said. “We practiced base running, fitness, muscle building techniques and batting.”
Baseball Factory also evaluatesplayers and sends them evaluation videos after the championship, according to Monica Gonzalez.
“There were also scouts there at practice, but they were disguised in Baseball Factory gear, which is probably better so the kids didn’t get nervous,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said she liked that the boys trained and played games based on batting order, not skill.
“Everyone got the chance to play and everyone sat on the bench,” she said. “He played lead in his team’s first game, then he sat for a while at another, which is what’s fair.”
Besides training, the players also had night meetings where they discussed challenges off of the baseball field, according to Zach.
“The recruiter broke it to us, if you don’t have a 1100 SAT score, don’t have the grades or attitude then you won’t go anywhere,” Zach said. “It’s all about academics, attitude and athleticism.”
Gonzalez said recruiters also invited parents to attend meetings and discuss how social media can affect their children’s futures.
Experience and future
While in Florida, Zach stayed in the dorms major league baseball players stay in at the Pittsburgh Pirates training facility.
“I had two roommates and met kids from all over the country, which was awesome,” Zach said.
Zach also had a personalized locker just like the pros and got to meet and talk with a few minor league players.
“I loved every minute of the tournament,” Zach said. “I learned a lot of new things and it only made me love baseball more.”
Zach went 5-9 during the tournament, with four singles and one double.
Baseball Factory scout and coach Todd Cross said Zach made his presence known at the tournament.
“On and off of the field, Zach is one of those kids that every coach would love to have on their team,” Cross said. “But more importantly than being a good baseball player, Zach was an extremely positive, respectful young man on and off the field. I never once heard him complain the entire week, and we are talking about 9-10 hours a day in 90-plus degree weather with intense humidity.”
Gonzalez said the national tournament taught her son what playing college baseball would be like.
“If you want to play in college, this is what it’s going to be. You’re going to be exhausted and it’s going to be hard,” Gonzalez said.
In terms of college, Gonzalez said the recruiters told them to look at Division 1 schools 50-100 miles away from home and schools their players have enjoyed based on the environment.
“They really put it in perspective for us,” Gonzalez said. “Like, if you go into your first week of college baseball and you break your leg and can’t play, would you still want to stay at that college? Are you there for baseball or there for school and baseball is a bonus?”
As for his future, Zach said he’d like to get a baseball scholarship to someplace such as James Madison University, The University of Virginia or Christopher Newport University.
“I don’t know what I want to major in, but I just want to get a baseball scholarship to college and go from there,” Zach said.
Zach said he looks forward to getting back to school next month and starting baseball season in the spring.
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