Fernando's prime was a little bit before my time, but my father told me all the stories about him. He is a huge hero to every Mexican.
My first year as a rookie in 2005, I pitched for Mexicali in the Mexican Winter League. And who was one of my teammates? Fernando Valenzuela. I couldn't believe it.
Fernando hadn't been in the big leagues since 1997, but he wanted to play because he loved the game. Even though he was in his 40s, he still pitched a lot of quality innings.
For all the young players, it really felt like God was setting an example for us. We all learned so much by watching him pitch and go about his business. He was so humble. It was a great feeling to be with him, and something I'll never forget.
It's exciting to be a Mexican player in the big leagues. Soccer still is the big sport, but baseball is getting bigger in Mexico. Back in the '80s and '90s, there were no Little League teams in Mexico. Now there are some programs for the kids.
The big leaguers here are supporting them. It's a blessing, because we can provide the things they need to help them to succeed. Now, every time I go back to my hometown, you see kids with gloves and bats. You'd never see that before.
I always hoped I would be able to represent my country, and I got the opportunity to play for Mexico in this year's World Baseball Classic. Even better, the games were in Jalisco, near my hometown. There are no words to even describe it. When they played the Mexican national anthem, I got chills. My heart was pounding so hard.
I have played for a lot of teams in my career, but playing for Mexico was different. Those guys are my paisanos. They're all Mexicans. We all know what we had to go through to be a part of that team. Some had it harder than others. But we all were able to be united and represent Mexico. It was awesome. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Another big highlight was being able to play in front of my family. I never knew if I would be able to make it to the big leagues. It hasn't been easy. I've had Tommy John surgery and a major knee injury along the way. My family always has been there through all my ups and downs. They inspired me to work harder and do the things I need to accomplish. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here. I'm playing for them.
It's great pitching for the White Sox. I am aware that there are a lot of Mexicans living in Chicago. It's always exciting whenever I walk in from the bullpen to start a game. I hear the mariachi music, and people yelling my name. It makes me feel proud to be a Mexican.
As told to Ed Sherman
Miguel Gonzalez is a pitcher with the Chicago White Sox. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.