07/14/2003 5:36 PM ET
Gonzo likes NL's All-Star chances
Lone Arizona representative on another underdog team
Luis Gonzalez on playing in the All-Star Game
Rosters: AL | NL
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Like Mark Twain and Darryl Strawberry, reports of the Arizona Diamondbacks' demise earlier this spring appear to have been greatly exaggerated.
Just ask Luis Gonzalez, the lone Diamondback on the All-Star team, but the driver of an Arizona bandwagon that is getting more crowded with each passing week.
"Everybody had us dead and buried," Gonzalez said Monday afternoon at the Westin Hotel in Chicago. "But look at us now, we're right in it, we're getting Curt (Schilling) and (Randy Johnson) back for a second-half run and all of the young guys who contributed so much during the first half picked up a lot of experience and should help us in the second half.
"Sometimes you can gain some positives out of adversity. We lost guys you don't replace, but it forced us to go with 11 rookies, and when you look at what some of the young guys did, you know we wouldn't be where we are without them. But they never would have gotten the chance to play as much as they did if it weren't for the adversity we went through with all of the injuries. We didn't have anybody else to turn to."
Gonzalez, hitting .310 with 18 homers and 67 RBIs, has been a big reason the Diamondbacks have ascended to second place in the National League West after a disastrous stretch from April through the latter days of May. But youngsters like Brandon Webb have also helped keep Arizona in the hunt.
Gonzalez has always adapted well to the underdog role and is never better than when people underestimate him. The Astros gave up on him after labeling him a streak hitter. He also had stints with the Cubs and the Tigers. But Gonzo really blossomed into a star player in Arizona, finally proving his doubters wrong with a string of spectacular seasons.
Tuesday night Gonzalez will be on yet another underdog team, the National League, which will be facing hometown ace Esteban Loaiza and the rest of an impressive American League staff at U.S. Cellular Field.
"They've got a lot of talent but so do we," Gonzalez said. "I like our chances because I think we have a very strong bullpen on this team with guys like (Los Angeles right-hander Eric) Gagne, (Houston lefty Billy) Wagner and (Atlanta right-hander John) Smoltz. That's a very tough trio right there, and of course we've got other great pitchers here too, so I like our chances."
The Diamondbacks pick up the season at San Diego after the break, then travel to San Francisco to face the team they are chasing in the NL West. Another chance for Gonzalez and the Diamondbacks to show they're alive and kicking.
"A lot of people counted us out and it's always nice to prove people wrong," Gonzalez said.
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.