May 22, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Edison’s Cameron Chinn took advice from Coach Gonsalves and later got him to join his staff

Edison players joined Coach John Gonsalves (front row number 36) at Blair Field in 2017 where Gonsalves’ number 25 is retired. (Photo courtesy Edison baseball)

(Second of two parts)

Former Edison High School baseball players and head coach Cameron Chinn planned to meet on the field this week to fondly remember John Gonsalves, the ex-Long Beach State coach who died from pneumonia on Saturday, May 29 at the age of 78 after a month-long illness.

Gonsalves, who was the Long Beach State head coach for 19 years before retiring, was a key part of the Edison program for the last eight years as an assistant coach.

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“We’re going to exchange stories and tears and smiles about how he influenced all of us over the years,” Chinn said earlier this week before the planned meeting.

Chinn’s relationship with Gonsalves goes back a while and the memories are great ones, he said.

“I brought him with me from Paramount High School where he was with me for my last five years at Paramount so he was with me for 13 years as an assistant coach,” said Chinn, who concluded his eighth year as Edison’s head coach. “Our relationship began when I was a student at Cal State Long Beach and wondering through the halls and trying to find my place in life and wondering what I wanted to major in.

“I was a history major for two days and pulling my hair out wondering what I was going to do and looking for a change and I happened to stumble across his office and was staring inside his office doors and checking out all his pictures and posters and baseball memorabilia and he called me in to his office and he said, ‘can I help you?’ I said I was a young baseball coach, I was a 21-year-old head JV coach at Wilson at the time and after a two hour discussion about changing to a physical education major and coaching baseball and doing the things I wanted to do, he had the next two years planned for me, to be a PE major and to keep coaching and doing everything I needed to do.

“He told me being a PE major was going to work if I was good at coaching because people told me to not to be in physical education because it’s so hard to get a teaching job in that.

“But he made me feel comfortable I could do it and he got me planned and then it turned into a relationship where I met with him almost every day at the school asking him advice about not only being a teacher but being a coach to the point where after he retired as a professor at Long Beach State, I was able to get him to come coach with me and that developed into a friendship where he was a best friend and a father figure to me.

“I was able to meet with coach close to 300 days out of the year because the baseball school year is a full-time job. When we didn’t have games or practices, we would meet up and go to dinner. It was a 13-year-relationship on the field and the last 23 years when you count all the mentoring he gave me when I was at Long Beach State.”

Chinn, who played baseball at Long Beach Wilson, learned to appreciate not only the kind of coach Gonsalves was, but the kind of person he was.

“Coach was always a teacher, whether it was life, baseball, physical education, the fundamentals of baseball, he was a teacher with everything he did,” Chinn said.

“Everyone who was around coach not only appreciated him for the baseball knowldge but just the kind of person he was, so fun, so positive and welcoming everyone. I’ve gotten so many texts and calls not only from the current Edison players, but the past Paramount players as well because he was so influential to those kids.”

Gonsalves loved being at ball park and was content at helping out the Chargers, who finished 15-13 overall this year, winning their last five games. Gonsalves coached through Easter of this year before becoming ill.

“He was more of a bench coach, someone who could lend advice during practice and games,” Chinn said, “Then, he kind of became a hitting coach where he would stand in the batting cages the entire time. He liked to do what other coaches don’t always like to do. He enjoyed working with their swings and working on Tees with them. He would videotape every single game we played, whether it was winter league or summer league or real games and watch the swings back with them on video.”

When Gonsalves became ill and his condition did not improve, Chinn said he began to brace for the worst.

“When the news did come in that his time was up, it was hard,” he said. “It didn’t really hit me until the banquet last night (Monday) when I spoke about him to the team and the parents, and it was very hard to get through. It took me a while to get through it but I was able to have on the last night of his life, I was able to get into the room with him. He was in an induced coma but I was able to talk to him and let him how much he meant to me, so that was important for me to have that last moment with him.

“He went out doing what he loved to do. He had a true passion, not just for the game of baseball but for young people and staying young and being around them and mentoring them and coaching them.”

One of those players was Chase Hanson, an outfielder and right-handed pitcher who graduated from Edison in 2018, played at Orange Coast College and is headed to University of Houston to play baseball next year.

“Talk about the most genuine mentor as some of us would say, not coach, the most genuine mentor,” Hanson said. “He had a passion for not only the game but something way more than that which was seeing us players with a smile on our face. His smile after having worked with someone who was struggling was truly his passion. He loved working with players whether you were the worst player on the freshman team or a number one draft pick, he’d still work with you, not because you asked him to, but because he went out of his way to do it.

“Speaking for all of us, not just myself, all those days in the lab (cages) is what Coach G loved. Every single gosh darn day, this 78-year-old man would have a thousand times more enthusiasm and energy to make us 14-18 year old boys be great young men in life. As coach would always say, ‘move your puppies,’ and that was to get your butt moving and to not lollygag on his field. The grass was grown to be ran on, not walked.

“He truly just wanted us to know what it was like to succeed in a game of failure.”

PART ONE: OC coaches refllect on the impact of Coach Gonsalves

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com