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Not bad for a walk-on.
New Mexico State baseball star Nick Gonzales was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates with the seventh pick in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft Wednesday night.
The Vail, Ariz., native is the highest draft pick in program history, surpassing former Aggie infielder Joey Ortiz's fourth-round selection (108th overall) last year by the Baltimore Orioles. Gonzales is the 66th NM State student-athlete to hear his named called in the MLB Draft and the 13th since 2010.
Gonzales is also the first NM State ballplayer ever drafted by the Pirates.
"It was pure joy and excitement for me and my family (to hear my name called)," Gonzales said. "I'll never forget that moment."
A walk-on when he first arrived on campus, Gonzales became a household name during his junior season at NM State. The 2020 Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Player of the Year was on pace for one of the best offensive seasons in collegiate baseball history before the campaign was suspended due to coronavirus.
A unanimous Preseason All-American entering the season, the Western Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year hit .448 through 16 games, ranking first nationally in home runs (12), runs (28), runs batted in (36) and total bases (67). He was named the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association National Player of the Month for February.
Gonzales, who owned a nation-best on-base streak of 82 consecutive games when the season was suspended, put up eye-popping numbers during the abbreviated campaign. He hit for the cycle, including two home runs, against Iona on Feb. 23 before smashing five home runs in a single day against Purdue Fort Wayne on Feb. 29, knocking out two dingers in game one of the doubleheader before swatting three more, including an inside-the-park grand slam, in the nightcap.
In addition to becoming the first student-athlete in program history to earn National Player of the Year accolades from CB Newspaper, Gonzales also scooped up First Team All-America recognition, landing on the 17-man squad. It was the third straight year he received praise from the publication, which also named him a 2019 First Team All-American after crowning him as a Freshman All-American in 2018.
"(Nick's) the best to ever wear an Aggie uniform," head coach Mike Kirby said.
Gonzales was also recognized for his achievements off the field this past season. He was named to the 2020 College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District Team in May, maintaining a 3.33 GPA in the classroom while he was turning heads with his play on the field.
The Aggies have now had a student-athlete selected in the MLB Draft for six consecutive years, including four top-10 rounders and three top-five round draftees. Ortiz and lefty pitcher Andrew Edwards (31st round, 928 overall) were NM State's two selections last year.
"To start as a walk-on and for it to lead into this is awesome for kids that aren't highly recruited out of high school," Gonzales said. "It just proves to them that with hard work and determination, it can really happen."