When Álex González appeared at Marlins Park last June for the franchise’s 25th Anniversary Weekend, many of us were under the impression that he was already past his playing days. The 41-year-old had been absent from the major leagues since 2014.
But on Thursday night, González took the field one final time for Leones del Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League. He started at shortstop, recorded a first-inning single and exited the game in the top of the third, officially retiring from baseball.
González debuted for Caracas during the 2006-07 MLB offseason and finished with a .315 career batting average in winter ball, so the club prepared a gracious send-off for his service. His Venezuelan uniform No. 16 was imprinted on the infield dirt in chalk. Teammates signed his cleats before the game and they all went out to greet him in the middle of the diamond after the manager called for a defensive substitution, presenting him with a framed Leones jersey.
Signed out of Venezuela as a teenager, González spent more than a decade in the Marlins organization and played every defensive inning at shortstop throughout his tenure. He ranks among the top 10 in franchise history with 896 games, 3,488 plate appearances, 788 hits and 375 runs batted in. González was a compiler on the offensive side of the ball, but there ain’t no shame in that.
A 1999 National League All-Star (the Marlins’ lone representative), González stayed long enough to share in the excitement of 2003. He posted a .756 OPS, which still stands as his best mark in a qualified season. The Fish advanced to the World Series in spite of his slumping bat—he slashed .102/.120/.163 through the first 14 games of their October run.
According to The Baseball Gauge, that was by far the most valuable play for the Marlins in the entire series.
González also contributed two hits apiece in Games 5 and 6 to propel the underdogs to a title.
He bounced around quite a bit once qualifying for free agency after the 2005 season—Boston, Cincinnati, back to Boston, Toronto, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Detroit. All the while, his defense at shortstop aged gracefully.
Since those major league gigs dried up, González has maintained a relationship with the Marlins, including appearances during 2017 All-Star festivities in Miami and the aforementioned Anniversary Weekend. Hopefully, that continues for years to come.
Congratulations, Álex, on a long and productive career. Good luck with the next phase of your life.