The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Cienega High School graduate Nick Gonzales today, marking the start of his pro career, reportedly for full slot value of $5.43 million as the No. 7 pick overall in the MLB draft.
He and Sam Khalifa (Sahuaro, Class of 1982) are the highest drafted players by MLB from Tucson. Khalifa was also the No. 7 pick overall by the Pirates in the 1982 draft.
Gonzales and his parents and girlfriend were in Pittsburgh today at PNC Park for the signing and also to meet Pirates manager Derek Shelton.
“It was so jaw-dropping just to walk into this park and see how beautiful it is and see the city right behind center field,” Gonzales said on a Zoom call with Pittsburgh reporters. “The (Roberto) Clemente Bridge, it was unbelievable. Getting to step on the field was incredible for me.”
Gonzales may take part in Pittsburgh’s preseason training that starts. July 1 Every big-league club can use 60 players in the training session before the season is slated to start July 23 and 24. The Pirates may use the opportunity to further develop Gonzales, who just completed his junior year at New Mexico State.
A middle infielder, who played at mostly second base for the Aggies, Gonzales was drafted as a shortstop.
“I’m focused on my development, getting around the right coaches and learning,” Gonzales told reporters.
After arriving in Pittsburgh last night, Gonzales had a physical at 6:30 this morning. He and his family return to Tucson tomorrow after touring the city.
Gonzales’ brother Daniel, also formerly of Cienega who played football at Navy and is stationed at Okinawa, Japan, was part of the Zoom press conference. He watched the MLB draft via Zoom. Daniel watched Nick sign in the middle of the night at Japan.
“He was really tired, but it was really cool to have him there,” Nick said.
Nick, 21, ranked first in the NCAA when the college baseball season was stopped shotrt because of COVID-19 in home runs (12), runs (28), RBIs (36) and total bases (67). He finished his career at New Mexico State by reaching base safely in 82 straight games.
“We are thrilled to add Nick Gonzales to the Pirates family,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said in a statement. “Nick has been an elite performer at every level of his baseball career. Nick has a broad skill set which allows him to impact multiple areas of the game. Just as importantly, Nick has demonstrated a deep passion for the game and for learning and improvement.
“We believe those qualities will allow him to continue finding new levels of performance and, one day, to become a valuable member of our major league team. We welcome Nick and his family to the Pirates.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.