Why The Guardians’ Oscar Gonzalez Has The Mood Music To ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’


NEW YORK — Oscar Gonzalez can’t remember which song he almost chose that day in AAA class in Columbus, Ohio. Much like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards enrolling in the same primary school in the South East of England, any alternative has long since become unimaginable.

Who’s to say what would have happened if the 24-year-old rookie outfielder had chosen an ode to something other than nautical nonsense to announce his arrival at home plate at Progressive Field this year. Who knows where the Cleveland Guardians would be if Gonzalez grew up watching the “Teletubbies” instead – or if he was a big “Flintstones”. As it’s been said since the days when credible choices for background music were limited to Beethoven’s Fifth or a Sousa march, baseball is a game of thumbs.

But as fate would have it, Gonzalez wasn’t a fan of “Fairly OddParents” growing up in the Dominican Republic. He didn’t relish “Scooby-Doo.” No, Gonzalez loved “SpongeBob SquarePants”. So when he had to choose a song, it was the SpongeBob theme that came to mind.

“The song came to me,” Gonzalez said this week through team interpreter Agustin Rivero. “I thought it was something the kids would love, which is why I chose it.”

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Maybe, just maybe, the song chose him too. Because it was that song that played before Gonzalez delivered one of the most important home runs in Cleveland baseball history, his 15th-inning home run in Game 2 of Cleveland’s first-leg victory. round against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Gonzalez did not start the season on the major league roster, only breaking into the major leagues in May. He didn’t hit the cleanup until June. He was reaching fifth on Saturday when he hammered a Corey Kluber pitch deep into left field to give his upstart Guardians an unlikely victory thanks to an unlikely hero. He said this week that his life hasn’t changed much because of the circuit. But he changed that of others.

Take, for example, devoted Guardians fan David Hrusovsky, who started wearing an old SpongeBob Halloween costume to Guardians home games and ended up on national television just before the circuit, a show that earned him an interview on local television in Cleveland.

Or think, for a moment, of the Guardians franchise enduring Major League Baseball’s longest active title drought. Gonzalez’s home run gave Cleveland a chance against the New York Yankees in the Division Series, the latest stunner for a team that used 17 rookies this season and had the lowest average age of all seasons. major league teams at 26 as he won American League Central over more experienced teams such as the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins. They are one of the last American League teams standing despite the fact that aside from star third baseman José Ramírez, people outside of Cleveland would probably be able to name more Krusty Krab staffers than starters for the Guardians.

Gonzalez was by no means destined to be part of either group at the start of the season.

He hit .208 with a .585 on-base plus slugging percentage in the Dominican Winter League last year. He was a free and powerful puncher who couldn’t force his way onto the Guardians’ 40-man roster last winter as the team protected more announced prospects from selection in the Rule 5 draft. Due to the lockout, MLB canceled this draft last year. Because he did, Gonzalez started spring training in the Cleveland system. He hit .282 with an .813 OPS in 41 games at Columbus to start the season.

Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff decided it was time to call him, knowing full well what the decision meant musically, undeterred by the dignity-related consequences.

“There are a lot of things we think about when we call players,” Antonetti said this week. “The call song is not one of them. This did not cross the threshold of consideration.

To be clear, Antonetti was in no way concerned with Gonzalez’s choice. He was impressed when Gonzalez stuck with it instead of moving on to something more mainstream for the big leagues.

“I thought it was great,” Antonetti said. “He’s so comfortable with who he is that he hasn’t changed a thing.”

Some of his teammates might have been more comfortable if he had changed it. Veteran catcher Austin Hedges said many of them, especially the few older players who hadn’t played with Gonzalez in the minors, thought it was a prank. Hedges admitted he found it shocking. He was not the only one.

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“I thought it was awful. I’m not going to lie. I think everyone expressed that concern,” pitcher Triston McKenzie said with a smile. hit .300 the first two weeks and everyone was like, well, if it works out for him…”

If McKenzie thought he and his bandmates were stuck with the song then, they certainly are now; it was that song that filled Gonzalez’s ears as he headed to the plate for one of the biggest at bats in his team’s history. And as corny as it sounds, the fact that Gonzalez feels comfortable enough to choose this anthem means that Hedges and other veterans such as Ramírez are facilitating the kind of clubhouse they hoped would accelerate progress. young players that this team relies on.

“I think that’s everybody’s leadership culture,” McKenzie said. “When the guys come in, they might not be comfortable talking to José Ramírez, but when they see him joking around, being light-hearted, talking to everyone, it makes people feel like they can be themselves, they don’t have to hide from anyone.”

At 6-foot-4, Gonzalez isn’t exactly able to blend in anyway. He said his bandmates sometimes joke with him about the song, but he doesn’t really care if they do.

“To be honest, what matters to me is that the kids like it and I like it,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t care what other people say.”

And besides, Gonzalez’s march to the plate is less about what other people say than about what they sing. And what they sing – especially in the Guardians dugout a few times a game these days – is a song about the resident of a pineapple under the sea, absorbing, yellow, porous and utterly unforgettable.


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