Real Michiana: South Bend Cubs manager reveals back pocket play
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- South Bend Cubs fans should be used to seeing manager Jimmy Gonzalez on the field, but off it, he's been keeping a secret play in his back pocket for decades.
“It’s a hobby. I enjoy doing it. I know obviously they enjoy the haircuts…and it’s a time to connect with the players," said manager Jimmy Gonzalez.
He says perhaps, in another life, he'd be doing that every day.
"I used to cut my brother’s hair and local guys at home and the players and coaches. It’s gotten bigger. I’ve cut the most in these last four or five years," said Gonzalez.
He says it all started back in 1991, his first year playing professionally.
"We had a guy who did that in the clubhouse, and I asked him to cut my hair...and I said...'Can you show me how you do it?' And he gave me a quick tutorial on what he did and the whole process," said Gonzalez.
In 1993, he bought his first machine and began cutting.
"I still have that machine. It was a good one back then, and it’s lasted the whole time...and then it just kind of snowballs," said Jimmy.
“I remember I asked a friend, a teammate, he played here last year, and I asked him about where I can get a really good haircut, and he told me Jimmy do some great haircuts, and I was asking who’s Jimmy, the manager, I couldn’t believe that...and he did a really amazing job," said South Bend Cubs pitcher, Enrique De Los Rios.
“When I first started doing it, it was more of the haircut part...and I realized the conversations that were stemming from the haircut, so that’s when I realized, okay this is a way where I can get to know someone," said Enrique's manager.
Jimmy says he asks players about home, about family, basically anything they need to get off their chests.
"A lot of these guys are first year players and I know what they’re doing. I know what they’re struggling with. I know how they’re performing out on the field, and it’s about those things are going to happen, and it’s overcoming the adversity part of it, because I’ve been there...and I think my role right there in that moment is to let them know that they are here for a reason," said Gonzalez.
“He’s really nice, because he’s the type of manager where if you come to him with a problem, and he’s going to try to help you, and I think that skill in a manager make the manager really special, because you’ll feel comfortable playing and working with the manager," said Enrique.
Jimmy says that's exactly his goal--make players feel comfortable off and on the field, so he asks two things of them at the end of each haircut.
“Clean up this mess, because I’m not going to clean it up...and to always give their all on the field...And again, it’s parts of when they get to see this guy cares, this guy wants them to do this, and I really do, that’s when they’ll really dig deep and give their all in any circumstance, in any situation," said Gonzalez.
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