By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Is there a more natural pairing to coach the Enid Minors than Seth Sturgeon and Zach Gonzalez?
They have been best friends since age 3 and have been teammates on every team except their freshman year in college, when Sturgeon played at Hutchinson, Kan., and Gonzalez at Northern Oklahoma College Tonkawa.
They were roommates the past two years at USAO, where they helped revive a Drovers program leading the school to a 41-19 record this spring and a trip to the NAIA national tournament.
“We know each other like the back of our hands,’’ Sturgeon said of his former Enid High and Legion teammate.
“He’s more fun-loving than me. I’m a little more serious. You ask any of our friends and they will say we bounce off each other well.’’
“It’s going to be a blast,’’ Gonzalez said.
Sturgeon, who was 9-2 with a 4.04 ERA as a senior at USAO, will handle the pitchers. Gonzalez, who hit .302 with five homers and 34 RBI will handle the hitters.
“He may have to take care more of the conditioning,’’ Gonzalez said. “I’ll be doing more of the yelling.’’
Sturgeon joked about the two as roommates.
“We have had our share of altercations,’’ he said with a smile. “Of course, I won all those ... I think you get more mad at your best friends than someone else.’’
Gonzalez just smiled.
“He’s more of the firecracker between the two of us,’’ Sturgeon said. “I’ll have to keep him under wraps ... but we pretty much have the same philosophy of how to win games.’’
Both have a year of summer coaching under them — Sturgeon as the pitching coach with the Majors last year and Gonzalez assisting Butch Lingenfelter with the Minors.
“That was a learning experience for me,’’ Sturgeon said. “I saw a different aspect of the game.’’
“It was new to me, but Butch took me under his wing and told me a lot of things about paced,” Gonzales said. “With Seth and me coaching together, it should be more fast paced and a lot of fun.’’
Sturgeon, who is engaged to be married to Emily Hawkins of Medford at the end of July, said he’s ready for more responsibility such as dealing with parents.
“I’m growing up,’’ he said. “You have to deal with it sometime.’’
“I’m going to let Seth take care of the paperwork,’’ Gonzalez said. “I’d rather show up and hit ground balls, but I’ll be there to help with the parents.’’
Both found in their first year as coaches they didn’t know as much about the game as they thought.
“I found I had a lot to learn,’’ Sturgeon said. “It took me back to when I was a catcher. You have to think about every situation. As a pitcher, you just have one thought, and that’s to get this guy out.’’
“Butch had seen a lot more baseball than I even thought about,’’ Gonzalez said.
Both see their youth as an asset coaching a team primarily of 15- to 16-year olds.
“We can relate to them a lot better,’’ Sturgeon said. “We just got done playing. We know what the grind is about ... what it’s like to go to the ballpark when it’s hot and you’re a little sore.
“It was just five years ago when we were in their shoes,’’ Gonzalez said. “We understand them.’’
Patience is a byword for both. The Minors can be compared to a AAA team being thrown to the major leagues.
“You have to find a way to get them focused and find a way to keep it fun every day,’’ Sturgeon said.
Sturgeon will lean on Gonzalez heavily on this since he went through it last year.
“The immaturity level is pretty high,’’ Gonzalez said. “Of course, I can’t say too much about that because I’m pretty immature myself. For the most part, you just have to be patient.’’
The two do have some different opinions.
Sturgeon will draw from USAO coach Mike Ross.
“I really like his approach,’’ he said. “We went from a very mediocre program to winning 40 games and going to the national tournament. We will do things the same way.’’
Gonzalez was more influenced by Bill Mayberry, his Legion coach.
“Bill was hard on you, but he got the best out of you; that’s what you would like for your coach to be,’’ he said.
Both were happy their team will be playing in a league named for the late Les Beckham, who was the director of the local Legion baseball program for 44 years.
“He’s where the discipline of the program came from,’’ Sturgeon said.
Gonzalez wrote out “Les’’ on the infield dirt in the games following Beckham’s death.
“You still feel his presence,’’ he said, “especially when you see his picture walking in.’’
The two felt they ended their careers on a high note by reaching nationals at USAO. They had played on three state tournament teams at EHS and were on one state Legion state champion team with the Majors.
Gonzalez hit a home run against Oklahoma City University in his final game in the nationals. Sturgeon went 71⁄3 innings, allowing only seven hits and no walks. The Drovers lost 7-6 in 11 innings on a controversial call.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in on either one of us that we’re done,’’ Sturgeon said. “It was good to play in the nationals. The big guy (Gonzalez) hit a bomb (homer) against the wind.’’
“You can’t go out better than that,’’ Gonzalez said. “It felt great, especially against OCU. I’m not a big fan.’’
Both are preparing for a life outside of baseball.
Sturgeon plans to take the exam to join the Colorado Highway Patrol. He’s following in the path of his late father, Rick
“That had a lot to do with it,’’ Sturgeon said. “Zach and I played in Colorado (summer) two years ago and I fell in love with it.’’
Gonzalez is thinking of applying with the Enid Fire Department. He still might get into coaching.
“I like to help people,’’ he said. “I would be with a bunch of guys who like to help people. That’s something that has always gotten my attention.’’
Sturgeon was the male recipient of the Bill and Pat Smith Scholar-Athlete Award at USAO for his strong academic performance as well as his involvement with the university.
“That was a nice surprise,’’ Sturgeon said. “I try to be a role model. Mom (Connie) always installed those things in me ... that I have to work in the classroom to be able to play. School came first ... I know my dad would have been proud of (me).’’
Baseball did bring Sturgeon and Hawkins together. They were introduced by Josh Goodman, Hawkins’ classmate at Medford and a teammate both in summer ball and at USAO.
“There’s not a better place to meet than the ballpark,’’ Sturgeon said. “She’s pretty responsible. In reality, she keeps me in line. She’s a huge baseball fan. She came to games even when I wasn’t pitching.’’
“She came to see me play,’’ Gonzalez said with a laugh.
Both want to have fun in what might be their last summer of baseball.
“This is a good way to phase me out of baseball,’’ Sturgeon said. “I don’t have to go cold turkey from playing. We’ll have a good time and see how many games we win.’’
And both will be playing in the Alumni game Saturday.
“It’s going to be fun,’’ Gonzalez said. “I don’t plan on taking it too seriously.’’
“I don’t think we’re going to get beat,’’ Sturgeon said about the All-Stars from 2005 on against those from 1999-2004. “We have guys like Matt Peck and Tyson Seng.’’
Majors coach Chris Jensen is glad to have them both. He coached both in summer and high school baseball.
“We wouldn’t turn the Minors over to them if we weren’t fully confident they could do the job,’’ he said. “I think the world of them.’’�