Xavi Gonzalez played only one season for the Herts Falcons but that was enough to establish himself as one of the top players not just for Herts but in the whole of the National Baseball League. But it wasn’t just his performances on the field which endeared him to everyone connected with Herts. He also had a very positive influence off the field.
He spent the 2014 season playing for the Stuttgart Reds in the Bundesliga reaching the playoff semi-final – the club’s highest achievement in its history.
Despite being far away, Gonzalez has kept closely in touch with Herts and we understand Pau Sancho chose the Herts Falcons on his recommendation. Obviously, Sancho’s personal circumstances changed a few weeks ago so it looks like we will not see him in a Herts uniform this season, but despite this it will mean a lot to Herts fans that Xavi Gonzalez is thinking of Herts and looking for ways to support the club despite being far away.
We had a chance to speak with Xavi Gonzalez on these and other topics ahead of the 2015 season.
In 2014 you played your first season in the German Bundesliga. How does baseball in Germany compare to the other countries you played in?
Xavi Gonzalez: Baseball is the same everywhere but the Germans are starting to create their own way of playing and I think they have the potential to achieve great success.
We understand this was Stuttgart’s most successful season in their history. What were the key changes they made to achieve this? Was it the addition of high-profile players? Was it the coach bringing the best out of the team or perhaps it was the whole baseball community in Stuttgart getting together and making a big push?
Xavi Gonzalez: Yes, it was. I think one of the keys was that regardless of the score, we kept fighting to the last out of the game. During the regular season we did not lose games which we were expected to win. I must say that none of the teams in our league were easy to play against.
The Stuttgart community played a big part. They came together and supported us in every game. Our club had the second highest attendance. Only the champions, Solingen, attracted more fans. I am very proud to have represented them.
If the British Baseball leagues and clubs made a big push to grow and develop, how many years would it take to catch up with Germany?
Xavi Gonzalez: This is very difficult to predict because there are many factors which could have an effect. Baseball needs time to develop and grow among youth and adult players. From my time in the British leagues I saw that the British Baseball Federation and the clubs are ambitious and want to grow. Herts Baseball Club is a good example. I think it is on the right track not only to grow further but to be one of the most successful clubs in the UK.
Which areas should British clubs and the league focus on to achieve this e.g. invest in ballparks, coaches, high-profile players, youth baseball, better community engagement or something else?
Xavi Gonzalez: Ballparks, quality foreign players who also work as coaches, and, very importantly, work with schools to introduce baseball to kids.
What are your plans for the 2015 season? Are you staying with the Reds?
Xavi Gonzalez: I will be with the Stuttgart Reds in 2015.
If British baseball catches up and is able to match or beat the financial conditions offered by the German clubs, could we see Xavi Gonzalez back in a Herts uniform in the next few years?
Xavi Gonzalez: Why not? I still have my Herts jersey.