History will be made in the wee hours of March 20, 2019.
When the 2019 MLB season begins with the Seattle Mariners facing the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo, Japan, at 2:35 a.m. PST, Marco Gonzales will get the nod as the Mariners starter, thus becoming the first former AppleSox pitcher to start Opening Day.
Gonzales, who played for the AppleSox in 2010, went 13-9 with a 4.00 ERA last season. In addition to setting career-highs in wins and ERA, Gonzales' 1.22 WHIP was also a single-season best and he tossed his first career complete game on June 29.
With only 11 players returning from last season’s Opening Day roster, the Mariners are looking for leaders this season. Gonzales, 27, will be thrust into a leadership role despite making over 11 major-league appearances for the first time last year.
Regardless, he’s embracing the opportunity and looking to build off a stellar 2018.
“I always enjoy taking on a leadership role and I’ve got a great chance to do so this year,” Gonzales said at the Mariners Caravan stop in Wenatchee in January.
Gonzales was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals 18th overall in the 2013 MLB Draft and made his major-league debut the next season. After a torn UCL in his left elbow wiped out his 2016 season, Gonzales was traded to the Mariners in 2017 and has made his mark there ever since.
This past offseason, Gonzales agreed to a two-year, $1.9-million contract to buy out his two final years of team control in which he could have made the major-league minimum. Gonzales does not become a free agent until 2024.
“Marco is excited,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said to Mariners.com. “He’s earned it. There’s nothing better than getting awarded for something you’ve actually earned. And he has.”
In his sole season with the AppleSox, Gonzales was a part of the fourth West Coast League Championship squad in team history. Gonzales most notably went 5-1 with a 2.76 ERA and a league-high 66 strikeouts but also hit .256 in 82 at-bats and hit a home run in Game 2 of the East Division Series against Kelowna.
After the AppleSox defeated the Bend Elks in three games to claim the West Coast League Championship, Gonzales went to Gonzaga where he continued his successful work in the state of Washington. He had a 2.30 ERA over three seasons and racked up West Coast Conference hardware, winning Player of the Year twice, Freshman of the Year and Pitcher of the Year. He was also an All-American and the recipient of the John Olerud Award.
“We’re thrilled to continue to watch Marco excel at the Major-League level,” AppleSox general manager Ken Osborne said. “Marco was a first-class ballplayer and person in his time with the AppleSox and he’s continued to be as his notoriety has grown. He embodies the type of young men that we want to play for us.”
Along with Gonzales, 10 other former AppleSox players have moved on from Wenatchee to MLB. Others of note include Jason Hammel, who won the World Series with the Chicago Cubs in 2016. The number of AppleSox players in the pros will only grow this season with others like Keston Hiura, the top-ranked prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, on the way.