DENVER -- Some children dream of meeting a Major League player, but such days are rare even for the most fortunate. Some children who are sick or poor just dream of being able to smile during the holidays, and a gift would make it even better.
Rockies star left fielder Carlos Gonzalez wants to make both possible.
Gonzalez will make appearances on Dec. 14 at the Coors Field Diamond Dry Goods Store from 9-11 a.m. MT and at the Colorado Springs Rockies Dugout Store from 1-2 p.m. Fans who bring a toy suitable for a child ages infant to 14 may receive an autograph from Gonzalez during the Precious CarGo Toy Drive. With the help of the Colorado Rockies Foundation, the toys will be donated to Colorado organizations serving children in need -- Samaritan House, Tennyson Center, Vino y Chocolate Toy Drive, GIVE Denver-Adopt a Family and Children's Hospital Colorado.
Gonzalez has made two All-Star Game appearances and won three Rawlings Gold Glove Awards during his career with the Rockies. Now he wants to establish himself as a star in the community. He is organizing the Carlos Gonzalez Foundation to help charitable causes in Colorado and in his home country of Venezuela. Gonzalez is working with his agent, Scott Boras, and has hired former Rockies assistant equipment manager Joe Diaz as his assistant. Gonzalez expects to have many programs in addition to the holiday toy drive.
"It's a beginning," Gonzalez said. "I want to provide motivation to keep kids on the right path."
Gonzalez and his family enter the toy drive with some familiarity with the process. Gonzalez's wife, Indonesia, conducted similar toy drive projects in Venezuela, where she was a major soap opera star. To make sure all goes well, Gonzalez's mother and brother are spending more time than usual in Denver this offseason. In January, he'll go to his offseason home in Orlando, Fla., to prepare in earnest for the season.
"I want to get involved in this community and do it right -- that's the way I want to do business," Gonzalez said. "I want to help kids reach their dreams."
As a child in Venezuela, Gonzalez loved playing baseball and dreamed of his future, but he wishes that somewhere along the line he could have met a Major Leaguer. Now kids in Colorado don't have to worry about that.
"I don't think I [met a big leaguer] until after I signed my contract with the Diamondbacks and was invited to big league camp, when I saw Randy Johnson and Luis Gonzalez -- role models for that organization," Gonzalez said. "I remember being excited. They had reached the level that I was trying to reach back then.
"But I wanted to have that when I was a kid. A lot of kids are that way. They watch us play, love the way we play and would like for us to spend time with them. That's my goal. It's something I'm happy to do."
The turnout could be large because of Gonzalez's cross-cultural appeal. The Rockies and Gonzalez announced the event early. Also, Gonzalez said he will be doing interviews with Spanish-language media -- an area of potential promotion and community outreach opportunities for the Rockies and their large number of players who count Spanish as their native language.
"Absolutely, the community here is huge -- I didn't even know it was that way here until I joined the Rockies," Gonzalez said. "I'm from Venezuela, and it really made me feel at home seeing all the people from Central and South America, as well as the rest of the Spanish-speaking community. They enjoy the Rockies, and it's awesome to be able to help them. They went through the same things I went through when it came to moving to a new country."
Because of the expected large crowd, only the first 300 fans in Denver and the first 100 in Colorado Springs are guaranteed an autograph.