By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
At the age of 18, outfielder Jesus Gonzalez is the youngest ballplayer on the current roster of the Bluefield Blue Jays. He has arrived in town, though, with a year of professional experience behind him at Toronto’s Gulf Coast League outpost last summer.
At Monday’s preseason picnic at Bowen Field, he said, with the help of interpreter Darwin Tavarez, that in his first year as a pro the most important thing he learned “was to have confidence in myself, and to do what I can to win.”
Since reporting in with the Toronto organization as a free agent in 2011, he said about his mostly-older teammates, “I have worked well with them. I feel I am at the same level they are.” Then he added diplomatically, “They make me feel that way.”
A resident of Cumana, Venezuela, Gonzalez said that baseball is “very big” in that nation, “and very good. There are very talented players.” He said he learned the sport by playing with his brothers, starting when he was 11.
He said the Toronto system is a “very good” one. “I feel like they’ve been teaching me what I need to pursue my career,” he said.
In 2012, he played in 51 games for the Gulf Coast Blue Jays, producing a .206 batting average (40 for 194) with 14 walks, eight doubles, a triple and three home runs. He was 3 for 5 in stolen-base attempts.
The right-handed Gonzalez (6 feet, 180 pounds) is one of six outfielders on Monday’s preliminary Bluefield roster. The team will try to dodge the rain for workouts today and Wednesday, and will start the season at home at 7:05 p.m. Thursday, playing Greeneville.
When he heard about his move up from the Gulf Coast League to the Appalachian League, he tried to find out what was in store.
“I have heard it’s a very good league,” he said. “I heard there are some really good players who have come out of this league.”
In his first couple of days in the mountains, he said he has found the area to be “very beautiful, very nice.” And with a smile, he agreed it was much cooler than Florida.
— Contact Tom Bone at