Photo | Courtesy University of South Alabama
A three-year letterman at USA, Luis Gonzalez twice earned All-America honors and holds the Jaguar single-season records in RBIs (80) and games played (70).
Luis Gonzalez, a former University of South Alabama baseball standout who went on to a tremendous Major League career, will be inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame (ASHOF) as a member of the Class of 2019.
Joining him at the 51st Induction Banquet and Ceremony will be Tommie Agee, Bill Burgess, Willie Davenport, Bud Moore, Antonio Langham, Steve Savarese and Catherine Reddick Whitehill. The ceremony will be held April 27, 2019, at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel in Birmingham.
“So honored and blessed to be the first @WeAreSouth_JAGS inducted into the @ASHOF class of 2019,” Gonzalez said on his Twitter account following the announcement.
A three-year letterman at USA, he twice earned All-America honors. He holds the Jaguar single-season records in RBIs (80) and games played (70), which he produced in 1988 and 1987, respectively. He led the Jaguars with 16 home runs in 1988. Gonzalez’s number was retired at USA in 2001 and he was inducted into the USA Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.
“As many great things as I could say about Luis on the field — freshman All-American, All-American his junior year when he signed with Houston, set numerous Jag records — I could say even more about him off the field,” Steve Kittrell, the legendary USA baseball coach who had Gonzalez on his roster, told Lagniappe.
“Luis was the most well-liked Jaguar I have ever coached — not only by his teammates, but students and fans loved him. He was just a good person. Good heart. Supported other teams and always humble. He has always given back both with his time and financial support. I cannot tell you how fortunate we were to have Luis play for the Jaguars. They do not come any better.”
Gonzalez’s presence is still being felt on the USA campus. An indoor practice facility was built next to the Stanky Field clubhouse in 2000, and on Feb. 4, 2005, it was officially named the Luis Gonzalez Hitting Facility. The 8,000-square-foot building has three hitting stations, two pitching mounds and a locker room for umpires. The facility is also large enough to conduct infield practice, and several Jags now in the pros have been known to stop by during the offseason to work out there.
“He is a true leader of the university, the department and the baseball program,” Dr. Joel Erdmann, USA’s director of athletics, told Lagniappe while speaking of Gonzalez. “He has remained engaged throughout the years in many ways, which enhances everything we do.
“He is an advocate, a role model, a donor, a fan, a generous and thoughtful person with his personal time and, most importantly, a proud Jaguar. We are indeed grateful for Luis.”
Gonzalez went on to a very successful pro career after signing with the Houston Astros in 1988. His number was retired by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010, making him the first player in the organization’s history to earn the distinction. He finished his career as the team’s all-time leader in hits (1,337), doubles (310), runs scored (780), home runs (224), RBIs (774), total bases (2,373), base on balls (650), on-base percentage (.391) and slugging percentage (.529).
Gonzalez was a five-time All-Star with Arizona, and was awarded the 2001 Silver Slugger Award. Perhaps his most memorable achievement came when he delivered his walk-off single in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series off New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, which gave the Diamondbacks their first-ever world championship.
Gonzalez led the National League in hits (206) in 1999 and finished second in batting average (.336). His best all-around year came in 2001 when he hit .325 with a career-best 57 home runs and 142 RBIs to finish third in the National League MVP voting. That season, Gonzalez also set career highs in triples (7), runs scored (128), slugging percentage (.688) and OBP (.429).
He was the 2005 Branch Rickey Award recipient for his community service following Hurricane Katrina. He was inducted into the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame in 2011.
• The first ASHOF class was selected in 1969. The eight newly elected inductees will bring the total to 361.
In addition to Gonzalez, the name with the most local ties is Steve Savarese. While born in Glencoe, New York, he grew up in Leeds, Alabama. He became a successful high school football coach and in 1996 took over at Daphne. During his seven-year stint, the Trojans went 77-14, won four regional titles and were crowned state champions in 2001 with Patrick White at quarterback. Losses to Hoover in the 2000 and 2003 finals denied Daphne even more trophies.
In 2004, Savarese crossed Mobile Bay to become head coach at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School. The Yellow Jackets went 24-11 in those three seasons, making it to the playoffs each time.
Savarese would then leave coaching with a career record of 287-84 to become just the fourth executive director in the history of the Alabama High School Athletic Association in 2007.
Full biographies of the other inductees can be found at ashof.org. For information on attending the ceremony, contact the ASHOF Museum at 205-323-6665.
University of Mobile soccer
• Senior defender Nathaniel Bedai was named Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) Defensive Player of the Year. The Rams concluded the regular season with seven shutouts and allowed only a single goal in seven other games. Joining Bedai on the first-team squad was sophomore forward Victor Pimentel, who finished the season with 10 goals and led the Rams with six assists.
On the second-team list were senior goalkeeper Guilherme Altoe and sophomore forward Ronaldo Fortune, along with team captain and senior midfielder Matthew McArthur. Freshman midfielder Yazid Omri was named to the all-tournament team.
Senior forward Colleen Kennedy was named to the women’s SSAC first-team unit, along with junior defender Heidi Giles. On the second-team roster were junior forward Cheyne Bush, senior midfielder Noemi Mallett, junior midfielder Abi Bush and senior defender Zoe Phillips. On the all-freshman squad was midfielder Nadia Soderberg, also on the all-tournament roster.