Baseball Marlins' Gonzalez Lends LODD Family Help

Posted: 03-17-2008
Updated: 03-17-2008 10:52:21 AM

Mike Phillips
The Miami Herald

Mar. 17--JUPITER -- The idea was to bring in Luis Gonzalez, a veteran and one of the most respected players in the game, to help lead the young Marlins.

South Florida is getting a taste of what kind of man Gonzalez is this week. Gonzalez has been thinking for the past week of a way to help the family of Ray Vazquez, who was killed during a shooting March 3 at a Wendy's in West Palm Beach.

Gonzalez called Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols and has arranged to have an auction on for a package that includes dinner with Gonzalez and Pujols, and tickets to the Marlins-Cardinals spring training game March 20. The two highest bidders would bring three friends for a total of eight, and they also would spend some time on the field before the game.

"We're here, and we're part of the community," Gonzalez said.

"It's not about being a baseball player. It's about being a human being."

The money will go to Vazquez's wife Michele, who is raising five sons.

"The mom is left with [five boys]. She's a police officer, and he was a firefighter, so they put their lives on the line every day. I just thought it was a small gesture of what we could do," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez also is a father. He and his wife Christine have triplets -- Jacob, Megan and Alyssa -- who are 9.

"You're a dad," Gonzalez said. "I lived in those fast-food places; happy meals all the time. When I saw the situation, it was disheartening. It's something small we can do, and hopefully enough people will understand what we're trying to do and try to help out and raise some good money.

"My wife's in town, and I talked to some people to ask if they thought it would be a worthwhile idea to do it, to just kind of help in any way we can and raise some funds and try to make a difference a little bit."

Gonzalez has a history of giving to charities and helping in the community, wherever he has played.

"Everywhere I've ever gone I've kind of always tried to be aware of what's going on in my surroundings," he said of the incident.

"I had been watching it on the news and I've been contemplating doing something for a while. I've done stuff before with police officers in Arizona, and I've always been involved in community stuff."

Gonzalez joked that all eight people at dinner probably would "be Cardinals fans," and added he that it was only right that baseball players do the right thing.

"The advantage we have as professional athletes is we're able to reach a lot of people whether it's with you guys [media] or just us being in the community," he said. "I've always tried to do the right thing and be positive and just let people know we're human beings, too.

"We take our uniforms off, and we have to do stuff just like everybody else. People know who we are and you're in the limelight, but I'm no different than anybody else."

Gonzalez and his family have known Pujols and his family for years.

"I called him up told him the idea I had and explained it to him, and he said I'm all in whatever you decide to do," Gonzalez said. "Both teams are here. It's only fitting we try to do something for that family while we're here."