In the offseason, Miami-area native Gio Gonzalez trains at the University of Miami. And it was there one day that Gonzalez somehow went from having no one to catch his offseason bullpen sessions to having a major league veteran, five-time all-star and four-time World Series champion crouching behind the plate for him.
Jorge Posada and Gonzalez work out at the same gym at the school. The two met, and Gonzalez, 28, mentioned that he didn’t have anyone to catch his upcoming bullpens. The two share the same agency, ACES, but Gonzalez later jokingly insisted that he wasn’t trying to drop a hint to the retired Posada, who played 17 years for the Yankees. But Posada, 42, who lives in Miami, instantly volunteered.
“He goes, ‘When are you throwing your next bullpen?’” Gonzalez said at NatsFest on Saturday. “I thought he was ready to say, ‘I’d love to go see it.’ He was like, ‘Nah, I’d love to catch it.’ I stepped back and was like, ‘Nah, is this for real? You messing with me? I would love for this to happen.’ He says, ‘More than happy to.’”
Posada showed up for the first bullpen session without a mask or catcher’s equipment, just a glove. “This guy!” Gonzalez thought to himself. Gonzalez was so worried he would hit his catcher that he stuck mostly to fastballs and made sure he kept the pitches high, just in case he unfurled one low at the unprotected Posada. By their third bullpen session together, Posada told Gonzalez to throw everything, even his curveball. Gonzalez has been ecstatic about the experience.
“He’s a great mentor,” said Gonzalez, who is entering his third season with the Nationals. “I always dreamt about pitching to Jorge Posada. It’s not that often you get a guy that’s that happy to catch a bullpen for you, especially with four titles. He’s an inspiration, an idol.”
Before, during and after the sessions, Gonzalez and Posada talk. Gonzalez admits he is star struck, wide-eyed and open-eared around Posada, gleaning tips on everything from pitching mechanics to mental approaches.
“You just sit there and listen,” Gonzalez said. “How many times you gonna have a four-title guy giving you information? … He keeps it nice and loose. He’s a Latin ballplayer, too, so we communicate in English, Spanish. He’s just one of the guys you idolize so much that you don’t wanna say something to shatter that friendship. I think that’s he just unbelievable. You let him do all the talking.”