For Adrián González, baseball began at the border. Born in San Diego, raised in Tijuana, and now the first baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he grew up playing Little League in both countries, shuttling back and forth on weekends to get as much playing time under his belt as he could.
Needless to say, it paid off — González is today one of Major League Baseball’s best all-around players. But the 34-year-old’s upbringing — and his work off the field — has also made him a hometown hero on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Together with his wife, Betsy, González founded the Adrián and Betsy González Foundation in 2008, which promotes youth education, health and athletics throughout southern California and in Mexico. Along with a host of other activities, the foundation refurbishes and maintains youth baseball fields, including the one in Tijuana where González played as a kid.
“The goal now is to put our financial situation to good use,” said González. “If Betsy and I can help just one kid reach their potential, well, we’re going to do it.”
González has done that and more, and become a leading proponent of America’s favorite pastime south of the border in the process. For the past two years, that has included working with Fundación Telmex Telcel to sponsor Mexico’s largest youth baseball league, bringing the game to kids in underserved communities throughout the country. Each year, the league champion is rewarded with a trip to Dodger Stadium to attend a major league game.
“It’s all about getting kids involved in something positive,” said González, who also runs a day-long baseball clinic for the runners-up in their hometown.
Back in LA, González hosts an annual celebrity softball game to benefit Padres Contra el Cáncer, an NGO focused on fighting childhood cancer in the city’s sizable Latino community. Indeed, it’s fitting that the cross-border all-star has found his baseball home in a city that so reflects his own upbringing.
“I don’t think there’s another team in sports that gets (the Latino community) like the Dodgers,” said González. “Playing in front of that crowd is special.”
Russell is a senior editor for AQ