Maybe the best part about sports is when something marginally unusual happens that causes the grown men in the funny uniforms who are supposed to be acting all serious to instead smile and giggle like little children. That’s pretty high on the “distracting us from real life” list of sport’s benefits.
It happened on Thursday, big time. Gio Gonzalez got his first career hit. He looked to the dugout and smiled. A big smile. Then he advanced to second on an Ian Desmond hit and smiled. Then he went to third on a walk and smiled.
“That grin on Gio Gonzalez’s face after he got that hit was priceless. Love guys who still show joy at playing baseball for a living,” @thebrowncoat wrote.
“There are seventh graders who wouldn’t be as excited to be on second base as Gio Gonzalez is right now,” Chris Chase wrote.
“Gio Gonzalez running the bases = comic gold,” Kilgore tweeted.
Gonzalez was asked multiple questions about his hit and subsequent base-running after the game. I wasn’t there for his entire media session — which was lengthy and ended with him thanking reporters — but I have him thanking the offense, the defense, the infield, the outfield, the catcher, the bullpen, Brad Lidge and the front office, while also saying some version of the word “smile” at least eight times.
“Big smile, big smile,” he said of his arrival at first base. “First hit? If you’re not smiling, you have no blood.”
I eventually asked about his happy trip around the base paths.
“My opinion, I’ve never been on base,” he said. “When you get an opportunity like that, all you can do is smile. And especially the first one, and especially here at home. And to do it for the Nats? And not only for that but my family? Just smile....I was like, you know what, let’s just get some laughs from this.”
Boz asked Gonzalez about working on his swing following his arrival in the NL; “You know what it was, I was working with my dad a lot in the offseason,” he said. “My dad told me to shorten up, try not to be a power hitter, just try to [make] contact. And I kind of worked on it a little bit. But again, I’m not gonna say I’m a great hitter, I’m not gonna put it out there like that. My job is to put it in play.”
And someone else asked about his happy glance toward the dugout; “I was looking at the other pitchers, just smiling about it,” he said. “We have some great hitting pitchers. I’m just glad to get the first one out of the way, hopefully start a trend with the pitchers.”
(As for his pitching, “I feel like I gave the fans what they wanted to see,” he said. “I’m still working. I’m not content with anything, but this is a positive step.”)
Of course, Gonzalez’s first base-running experience ended with him getting thrown out at home on a Ryan Zimmerman ground ball. This despite Gonzalez having a new (this year) sponsorship deal with Jordan Brand, whose cleats he said are the “lightest shoes in the world.” So, his wheels?
“Goodyear has not sponsored me yet,” he admitted. “I think I’ve got to take those ankle weights off. I feel bad, I know that Zim deserved an RBI, I feel like I robbed him of one. You know, just got to get those brakes off, try to get those ankle bracelets off.”
His first-hit ball was in his stall after the game; he said he would give it to his father to put in their trophy case. And despite his win being coughed up in the ninth, Gonzalez was one of the most excited players during the postgame on-field celebration. He was smiling.
“Of course,” he said. “When you get a W, it’s a win for everybody. I don’t care how it comes out. Jayson got a big hit, Ramos got a big hit. Everybody played a big huge role in this. I don’t look at it as I should have got the win; I look at it like hey man, we won, as a team. And that’s the way baseball’s supposed to be played.”
Oh, and just as I finished writing this, Gio himself sent out a tweet.
“Thanks for the love today everyone,” he wrote. “I couldn’t stop smiling for the first hit.”