DENVER — During the holidays, we share trinkets and joy, but this is the story of a gift presented on Sept. 24.
Rockies star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez watched with pride from the visitors’ dugout in Los Angeles as the Dodgers presented corner-infield prospect Edwin Rios, who hit 27 home runs at three levels in his first full pro season, with their Branch Rickey Minor League Player of the Year Award. The performance was Rios’ thank you for all Gonzalez gave last winter, and continues to offer.
• Rios named Dodgers’ Minor League Player of the Year
“I don’t want to say something corny or anything, but it was crazy,” recalled Rios, who at 22 is 8 1/2 years younger than Gonzalez. “We worked out last offseason, and we became real close. He and I shared a lot of stuff together. He invited me to his house for his Christmas party and stuff like that.
“To have him there that day of the award, it was awesome. Just being able to see his face, just to see how proud of me he was, made me feel great. It made me feel like I accomplished something.”
The relationship between Gonzalez and Rios demonstrates that when professional athletes are their best selves, the giving of friendship and mentorship is not limited by the bounds of team affiliation.
Gonzalez lives in Orlando, Fla., during the offseason and decided to work out in renowned football strength and conditioning coach Tom Shaw’s program, in which baseball players such as Martin Prado had begun to participate.
At the behest of George Gonzalez, who coached him in travel ball, Rios was at the Tom Shaw Performance facility, simply trying to find pro footing. A sixth-round pick in 2015 out of Florida International University, Rios was limited by a left hamstring injury to 22 games and just three homers in short-season ball the …