This past Monday I had the pleasure of spending my off day in Frisco where I was able to meet Alex Gonzalez, or Chi Chi as he is often called, and ask him a few questions. He was very kind to a young writer who was his junior by two years and was also a bit nervous. Chi Chi was very respectful and appeared extremely polished in regards to dealing with the media and had a professionalism about him that is rare for a 22 year old. I would like to thank Alex Vispoli for his assistance setting up my day in Frisco and the interview with Chi Chi. So without further delay here is my interview with Mr. Alex Chi Chi Gonzalez!
Brice Paterik: Your fastball consistently has movement in three different directions and your slider has the same arm action as your fastball. How much does deception and movement play a part in your effectiveness as a pitcher?
Chi Chi: It’s huge. All I really want is for the ball not to go straight, It’s much harder to hit if the ball isn’t going straight. It’s huge having movement balls both ways. I usually just grip it and rip it. When it’s going to glove side it cuts and when I’m going arm side it runs. But it is a huge advantage when the ball is moving, missing barrels and bats.
BP: You are a Cuban American and I’ve heard that you are fluent in both Spanish and English. Do you find often that you bridge the language barrier between native Spanish and English speaking teammates and do you think helps you to be a leader in the club house?
CC: Yes for sure. I’m always in the middle of everything. When there are latin players yelling at the Americans I’m helping to translate for them. It means my head’s in everything and I know everything that’s going on. It’s awesome to know both languages so I can communicate with both languages. Being American and hispanic I can take some of the latin players to go get their car fixed or help them with some other things if they aren’t able to get across what they want then I can step in and help them out.
BP: Your last few starts your stuff has been there, getting ground balls and missing barrels, but things just haven’t been falling your way. Those weak ground balls have been finding holes for singles and runs have been coming home as a result. What do you change, if anything, when your stuff is there but you aren’t getting the results you want?
CC: I just talked to the pitching coach Jeff Andrews and he just told me to stick to my guns and keep going with my stuff. One day I’ll have a game where I don’t have my stuff and balls are being hit in gaps but finding gloves so I just need to keep doing what I’m doing and the balls will find gloves. I also personally feel like I’ve been getting behind in counts a lot and not getting first pitch strikes. I’ve been falling behind so I’ve put the hitters in fastball counts to allow them to be more aggressive. So I need to attack the zone more earlier in counts so they can’t sit and wait on fastballs. So coach talked to me after one of my starts, I think it was in Corpus Christi that I gave up 12 hits in four innings and four runs but they all were singles. He told me to just stick with it and keep it going.
BP: You said in an interview with Nathan Barnett this year when he asked you what type of pitcher you would like to be that you would like to be a winning pitcher. This year you’ve really made that happen playing for two different teams, both of them clinching playoff births within a few weeks of each other. What has that been like being a part of Myrtle Beach and Frisco’s success and being on teams that are doing so well?
CC: It has been amazing. Winning is a lot better than losing, but it’s been a whole team effort. In Myrtle Beach and here, it’s a really tight bond that we’ve had on both of these teams, and it was also great that I got to move up to Frisco with one of my teammates Joey Gallo. So yeah it’s awesome clinching there, and then basically a week later clinching here. Hopefully they win the playoffs in Myrtle and then we win here so I could get two rings.
BP: You dominated the Carolina league racking up the K’s and posted a sub 3 ERA. For your outstanding performance you were named to the Carolina league All Star game. What was it like to receive that honor even though you weren’t able to pitch in the game?
CC: It was a huge honor for me. I haven’t been in an All Star game since I was 12 years old. In college they didn’t have any All Star games, just conference players and all that. It was very cool to be selected and I was extremely proud to represent the Texas Rangers organization and also to represent Myrtle Beach as well as my family in that All Star game.
BP: Now that you’re in Frisco you are only a few miles away from the big club and Rangers Fans. What have the fans been like here in Frisco, have you had much interaction with Ranger fans in the area so far?
CC: Yes today I signed autographs for about 20 minutes today and I had a couple of fans say that they’d love to see me in Arlington this year and it’s awesome to here that because I’m so close, just an hour or so away. It is great to be so close in a way to them, but also still far away because I need to keep challenging myself to get there. I’m glad to be in double A, this is where I want to be.
BP: My last question is about your nickname. Where did it come from? I’ve read multiple different things that it came from your dad or your great uncle. Where did it originate and who gave it to you?
CC: OK so both of my sisters have nicknames, they’re both older and I am the youngest. My oldest sister’s name is Lilly and her nickname is Niña. Our parents rarely called us by our actual names. My other sister is Nene. Now I’ve talked to my parents many times about this, and they’re pretty sure that it was my great uncle, so my grandfather’s brother, just came up with Chi Chi and it has stuck ever since. A lot of players call me Cheech, Chi, Chi Chi, whatever it is a mixture of I don’t really care what it is. Chi Chi is what it has been growing up and honestly I went to school and I wasn’t even called Alex. I introduced myself as Alex Gonzalez but I told them to call me Chi Chi. So that’s what it was through college and to my teammates. Also Alex Gonzalez is such a common name, especially in baseball, so that worked out perfectly being called Chi Chi instead of Alex Gonzalez to separate me a little bit.
Chi Chi was very courteous and if I were able to upload the audio I recorded you would hear how polished and comfortable he sounds talking to the media. As you read Chi Chi signed autographs for fans that day for about 20 minutes. I’m sure he wasn’t forced to do so but when I saw him out there signing things for all kinds of fans he looked happy to do so. It is refreshing to have such a genuine guy like him in your organization.
If you are interested, Chi Chi pitches tonight against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. Though it’s an away game you can still see it on MiLB.tv and you can listen to the game on Tunein Radio. I would like to thank Alex Vispoli once again for his help as well as Chi Chi for taking the time to interview with me as well as the Roughriders intern who helped me out. Also a shoutout to Tepid Participation from SB Nation’s Lonestarball for his encouragement and assistance. Thanks for reading and God bless!