Minor League Notebook / Steve Kresal : Whatever the Game, Gonzalez Is a Hit


When Bill Shanahan, general manager of the San Bernardino Spirit, talks about first baseman Ruben Gonzalez, he is quick to mention a secondary skill, not of real value on the field.

Gonzalez, as Shanahan will attest, plays a mean game of video baseball.

Recently, the two squared off in a best-of-seven series, with a Spirit dress shirt on the line. Gonzalez won the series and the shirt, four games to one.

Such is life in the minors for Gonzalez, a former star at Buena Park High School, Rancho Santiago College and Pepperdine University.


Gonzalez was drafted by the Seattle Mariners after his junior season at Pepperdine in 1987. He’s spent most of the next two years sleeping late, watching soap operas and perfecting his video-game skills until it’s time to come to the ballpark.

Once at the park, he spends his time perfecting his skills as a hitter.

Gonzalez played his first summer of professional baseball at Bellingham, Wash., in the Northwest League. He hit .304 with seven home runs in the short season.

Last year, he was sent to Wausau, Wis., the Mariners’ Class-A team in the Northwest League. Gonzalez again had a solid season at the plate, hitting .314 with nine home runs and 59 RBIs.

But despite his success, Gonzalez failed to move up in the organization. Gonzalez was sent to Class-A San Bernardino this year, but not for his lack of talent. Gonzalez just happens to be stuck in a organization that is stocked with quality first basemen.

Alvin Davis, the Mariners’ starting first baseman, is only 28. Jim Bowie, Seattle’s triple-A first baseman is hitting .283. Tino Martinez, who plays for the Mariners’ double-A team and was also a member of the 1988 United States Olympic team, is hitting .274.

Then comes Gonzalez.

“I really can’t worry about what other people are doing,” Gonzalez said. “I just have to go out and do the best I can. I’m enjoying myself. This is what I’ve always wanted to do.”


Gonzalez moved to third base for 35 games last season but came away with nothing more than a sore arm. He went on a weight-lifting program over the winter to help build up his shoulder.

The added strength has paid off in added power. Gonzalez has already hit a career-high 16 home runs and is batting .295 for the Spirit. He also has 56 RBIs, barely past the halfway point in the season.

Eight is amazing: A couple of years ago, Orange Coast College fielded one of the best community-college baseball teams in the state. The Pirates won the Orange Empire Conference championship and went on to finish third in the state tournament, losing in the semifinal round to eventual state champion Cerritos.

But that was far from the end for many of the Pirates. There are currently eight members of that OCC team playing in the minor leagues.

Catcher Brent Mayne, first baseman Rex Peters, designated hitter Dave Staton, outfielder Joe James and pitchers Mike Misuraca, Jim Foley, David Dawson and Scott Stoerck all played at OCC.

Mayne, Peters, and Staton attended Cal State Fullerton for two seasons after OCC and signed this summer. Foley went to Cal State Fullerton, James went to UCLA and Misuraca played another season at OCC in 1988 before signing last summer. Dawson and Stoerck signed after OCC’s 1987 season.


Where have you been? Trying to follow the professional career of Joe James has been pretty tricky this season. Because of an arm injury sustained in spring training, James, the hard-hitting former Newport Harbor High star, got off to a late start, only recently resurfacing in the New York-Penn League.

After hurting his arm in a collision at first base, James was sent to extended spring training in Florida for six weeks in early April. Then, he was assigned to the Indians’ Class-A team at Watertown, N.Y., where he has played sporadically.

In 31 at-bats, James is hitting just .194. He has five RBIs but no home runs.

Promotion. Steve Lankard, a relief pitcher in the Texas Rangers’ organization, took a step toward the major leagues last week.

Lankard was promoted from Texas’ double-A in Tulsa to the Rangers’ triple-A team in Oklahoma City.

Lankard, who went to Katella High School, Cypress College and Cal State Long Beach, was 3-4 with nine saves in 34 games. He pitched in 65 innings and allowed 62 hits and had 46 strikeouts.

In his first appearance with Oklahoma City, he pitched two-thirds of an inning without allowing a run.