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North relishes slice of Colby

Gonzales belts

Tornado into

high gear in SOC

He's been working on his smooth batting stroke since he could walk.

Sound like the son of a coach? Close.

I was about 2 years old when I first swung a bat, says North Medford High senior first baseman Colby Gonzales, grandson of former Medford High and North Medford head baseball coach Jim McAbee. I've always been able to hit pretty well.

at Miles Field.

Gonzales raised his team-leading batting average to .593 and his Southern Oregon Conference average to .633 in the doubleheader. He had two doubles, one triple, a home run and three singles in the doubleheader. He also drove in four runs and scored four times.

He didn't have a cheap hit in the bunch, says North Medford team statistician Don Schneider. Every one of them was hit hard.

I didn't think that much about it (what he was doing) at the time, says Gonzales. I was more worried about winning. I wasn't worried about me, I know that.

I don't think I've seen the ball better than I did on Saturday. It looked like a beach ball to me coming up to the plate. I hope it keeps looking like that.

His next chance to test that trained eyesight will be Saturday when the Black Tornado play a noon doubleheader at Grants Pass. On the line will be North's unblemished record in the SOC, as well as Gonzales' 17-game hitting streak.

Colby is such a good hitter because he doesn't worry about his hitting stats or anything else, says North Medford coach Brett Wolfe. He doesn't worry, he just hits.

Gonzales says he learned to hit from his grandfather, father (Rick Gonzales) and his mother, Mickie (McAbee's daughter).

I've had a lot of help from a lot of people, including coach Wolfe, says Colby. The main thing is I like to hit.

So he practices. I used to play whiffle ball with my friends in my backyard almost every day when I was young, says Gonzales. That's where I really improved.

Almost every day, Colby and his buddies were playing whiffle ball, says Mickie Gonzales. His grandfather, Rick and I all threw to him, too. Baseball is a big deal in our family.

When I was finished pitching to him in our backyard, he had to pitch to me, says Mickie, a former girls softball player in the Medford youth leagues. That was the rule.

One day, Colby's girlfriend was out there in the back watching. She said to me, `Wow, you can hit, too.'

I said, `You bet. I'm a coaches' daughter.'

Rick Gonzales and McAbee installed a batting cage for the budding North star in his backyard when he entered high school. the time he was a sophomore, he had earned a spot in North Medford's starting lineup as a first baseman and designated hitter. He batted over .400 during his sophomore season and earned first-team Southern Oregon Conference all-star recognition.

He has a pretty nice swing, says McAbee. I'd say he's about as natural a hitter as you are going to see at this level.

Says Rick Gonzales: The main thing I tried to teach Colby was to be humble and just play. He's done a good job of that.

He never tries to show off, adds Mickie Gonzales. He lets his hitting do the talking.

Wolfe says Gonzales has been well-trained in a baseball family to hit and play the game.

Sometimes, I just sit back and watch, says Wolfe. I feel I can't help him because he's been so well trained.

But we've worked on some things in three years to help him, and I like him up at the plate in big situations. I'm going to miss him a lot next year.

He's a very consistent hitter who can get very hot, like he did last Saturday. He has the ability to put his bat on the ball and make a lot of things happen.

Wolfe says Gonzales reminds him of his uncle, Monty McAbee, Jim McAbee's son and a former Medford High all-state player.

He has the same swing as his uncle, says Wolfe. Smooth and consistent.

Gonzales says he hopes to play one or two years of junior college baseball and then transfer to a major-college program.

Maybe I'll get to follow him some when he plays college ball, says Jim McAbee. I hope so. I'm going to miss going to watch his games when it's over.

The development of Colby Gonzales' thunderous swing has been a family affair. - Photo by Jim Craven