04/08/09 11:48 PM ET
Gonzalez will retire as a Diamondback
World Series hero will return to club in management role
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
The veteran outfielder still feels like he has a lot to offer a team, but as a free agent looking for a job with the season underway, his prospects seem to be dimming.
On the other hand, his prospects for returning to the organization that he was most associated with during his 18-plus-year Major League career are getting brighter.
When he is ready to retire, Gonzalez will do so as an Arizona Diamondback.
Though neither side wants to go on record at this point, the plan is for Gonzalez to sign a one-day contract with the team similar to what the Giants did with first baseman J.T. Snow last September. Snow was announced as the starting first baseman and took the field in the top of the first inning, but was replaced before the first pitch was thrown.
What both Gonzalez and team president and CEO Derrick Hall will confirm at this point is that when Gonzalez decides to hang up his spikes he will join the organization in a full-time capacity, likely serving as a special assistant to Hall.
Gonzalez sat with Hall and managing general partner Ken Kendrick during Wednesday's game at Chase Field and they met beforehand in Hall's office.
"They've left the door open for me," Gonzalez said. "They said it's there whenever I am ready. We had some preliminary kind of talks. Obviously I don't want to retire, but if it comes down to it I'll do what I have to do. Baseball has been my life. "
It's been a difficult week for Gonzalez, who for the last 18 years found himself in a starting lineup on Opening Day. This year, he watched the games on television from home.
"I'm a ballpark rat," Gonzalez said. "I love being around stadiums and [Chase Field] in particular. I miss the people that work there, man. It stinks not being around there, especially with me being home."
So when Hall and Kendrick invited him to the game, he jumped at the chance.
"It's exciting for me that they invited me to come back out and enjoy the day with them at the game," Gonzalez said.
"We had a great discussion," Hall said. "He really feels like this organization is home for him again. He likes the direction of the front office and the organization. He has a true love for our fans and this organization."
It's a turn of events that seems hard to believe given how acrimonious Gonzalez's departure from the organization was following the 2006 season. But with the departure of CEO Jeff Moorad to San Diego in January, Hall and Kendrick reached out to Gonzalez earlier this year.
A meeting took place during which the air was cleared between the two sides and the road was paved for him to return to the organization.
Gonzalez was originally acquired by the D-backs in the winter of 1998 when then-GM Joe Garagiola Jr. sent outfielder Karim Garcia to the Tigers in exchange for Gonzalez and cash.
It proved to be a steal of a deal as Gonzalez hit .336 and led the D-backs to 100 wins in 1999. Two years later, he hit 57 home runs for the World Series champs.
Regardless of the number of homers the 41-year-old hit for the D-backs, he is the most popular player in franchise history because of a bloop single in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. The hit, which came off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, scored Jay Bell with the winning run and gave Arizona its first and only major professional sports world championship.
"It's weird, because when people see me around town they still think I'm part of the Diamondbacks organization," Gonzalez said.
Soon, those people will be right.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.