In the shadow of giants: Jon Jon Gazdar’s rise to stardom

How a family filled with baseball shaped an unbelievable player
20240616_DMV-2 (1)

March 3, 2022.

Cabrillo College taking on Chabot College at Steve Friend Stadium in Hayward, California.

Down by one run in the bottom of the ninth, one out on the board, with runners on second and third.

Cabrillo chooses to intentionally walk the bases loaded to face Jon Jon Gazdar. This would end up being a big mistake.

Rain fell down onto Jon Jon as he stepped into the right-handed batter’s box. It was the middle infielder's 20th birthday, and Chabot needed him to come through with some heroics in a big moment.

Jon Jon gets a pitch he likes and turns on it, ripping a line drive over the third baseman’s head. The Chabot dugout erupts. Two runs come across to score, while Jon Jon makes his way into second base and gets clobbered by his teammates.

What a way to celebrate a birthday: a walk-off two-RBI double to give his team the win.

For some people, this kind of moment might not create a lasting memory, especially with so many other hits and great plays throughout his career. But for Jon Jon, this was different. The pure amount of joy that hit created was unmatched.

“I still have that video on my computer,” Jon Jon’s father, Michael, said of the birthday walk-off. “Whenever I get down, I just watch it. It was just the coolest moment … [Jon Jon] was happy … it was just so positive all the way around.”


Ever since he could walk, Jon Jon has been in love with the game of baseball. This was a common theme among the rest of his family members, with both of his older brothers, Brandon Gazdar and Christian Gazdar, leading the way by picking up a glove and bat as soon as they could.

Even when the three were too young to use real baseballs, they were given NERF bats and balls when Jon Jon was just 2 or 3 years old. The boys would smash the balls all over the house, finding any open hallway possible.

Each of Jon Jon’s brothers went on to play college baseball, and were both also middle infielders, with Christian being the first to make the jump to the collegiate level, taking his talents to Chapman University for the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

The group of boys all had one collective role model in their father, Michael. Michael played baseball when he was growing up, and gave his kids the option to play whatever sports they wanted throughout their youth.

“[Baseball] was never something we pushed on [the boys],” Michael said. “If they wanted to be the president of the chess club, that’s fine, as long as they were having a good time.”

But no other sport could compare to the amount of love that the brothers had for the game of baseball. Each of the three gave soccer a chance but quickly found that the time kicking a ball around was taking time away from hitting and fielding a different kind of ball, one with stitches, found on the diamond.

The boys focused on baseball year-round, with Jon Jon starting travel ball when he was just 10 years old. This gave him the ability to do what he loved for every season, only occasionally taking the winter off to give his body some rest.

Brandon and Christian are both six and eight years older than Jon Jon, respectively, paving the way for how their younger brother could have the most success possible on the field. This leadership carried into off-the-field lessons as well, with Jon Jon learning from his brothers’ ups and downs.

“Along with them being my two best friends, they’re my two biggest role models,” Jon Jon said of his brothers. “… Everything that makes me the player that I am today, a lot of it really came from them.”

Maybe the biggest thing gained from his older brothers was the amount of inspiration they gave him, to truly work hard to be the best. He looked up to his brothers so much so, that he was attempting to do everything possible to follow in their footsteps.

From their attitudes to their levels of confidence on and off the field, Jon Jon studied what his brothers did. He quickly found how important it is to stay consistent and block out the noise, ensuring that no one can get you off your game. Jon Jon now plays every game as his true, authentic self, thanks to the lessons he learned from his brothers.

As the youngest of the three boys, Jon Jon spent a lot of time traveling around for his brothers’ baseball games and tournaments. This was to his delight, as going to these events motivated him to one day get to that stage, and hopefully someday to an even bigger one.

“For me to just be around [my brothers] and just see the way they worked and the way that they went about their business was just really inspiring,” Jon Jon said. “They just laid the road map down for me.”


The brothers motivated each other in as many ways as possible, even when competing against each other. Whether it was baseball or even pool or ping pong, each brother wanted to be the winner of every game.

A lot of time was spent practicing the game together before the older brothers went off to college. The three were constantly playing catch, hitting and pitching to one another and working on fielding ground balls to keep their skills sharp.

The brothers had a bigger chance to be around the game than most kids growing up due to their father working in the San Francisco Giants system as the team’s chiropractor.

When Jon Jon was first born, Michael was working with the Giants’ Triple-A team, which, at the time, was the Fresno Grizzlies. At that level, the boys were given access to the field before games, where they could play catch with the players and watch practices not open to the public.

This sparked an extra appreciation for the game by getting a behind-the-scenes look at the professional level. They built relationships with players who then went on to play at the MLB level, and seeing them play on TV proved to be even more inspiration to get to that point.

All three brothers were homeschooled by their mother until high school, giving them the opportunity to travel with the Grizzlies and keep their focus outside of schooling on improving at baseball.

Jon Jon made sure to listen in on every ounce of coaching that he could absorb from any of the Grizzlies coaches, standing as close as he could to players during batting practice to overhear their words of wisdom, wanting to learn as much as possible, even as a kid.

Michael coached his boys up until high school, trying to instill positivity in his young ballplayers. Jon Jon by nature is quite hard on himself, but his father helped him to focus more on the positives.

“I always held myself to a really high standard,” Jon Jon said. “If I’m 3-for-4, I’m gonna be someone who is thinking about that fourth at-bat where I got out. Anytime with [Michael], he’d always just tell me to take the goods. Just live with them, be happy with your success then move on.”

Michael wasn’t the only parent supporting the baseball obsession among the boys, as their mother, Teri Gazdar, was extremely active in helping her sons improve at the game they loved.

Whether it was throwing soft toss, live batting practice or hitting ground balls, Teri made sure that any time she could help out, she would. This included the many times traveling to games and tournaments, staying in hotels with her sons and being a support system on and off the field.

Teri and Michael didn’t focus as much on baseball when they were growing up, taking more of a broad approach to being an athlete. The two consistently lift weights to this day, utilizing their 600-square-foot home gym that was no stranger to the three brothers.

The gym, paired with a baseball field built in the front yard of their home with 50-foot basepaths, a Little League mound, a full backstop and stands for spectators gave the brothers the type of yard that most kids dream of.

Out in Walnut Creek, California, this yard space is unheard of. The property came with two acres of land, with a corner of the front yard space perfectly set up for a backstop. A local school was tearing down its field and backstop, and Michael jumped on the opportunity to make it a new addition to his home.

Enlisting the assistance of a neighbor with a tow truck business, Michael brought home the backstop, and after putting up some fencing and finding some stands from a horse arena that was out of commission, the field was ready for play to commence.

“It’s not the Field of Dreams, but it’s good enough for us,” Michael said.

The boys got good use out of the field, with Brandon even breaking a window due to home plate facing the house. The window is still broken to this day. This forced a big net to be put up covering the house for a period of years to protect it from further damage.

The field was especially nice to have during Little League, with Michael able to hold practices at his own home when other fields were unavailable. With multiple Jugs nets, a pitching machine and a batting cage, any drills the boys needed were available to them.

Luckily, the neighboring houses to the Gazdar residence have been accepting of the baseball obsession among the boys, with Jon Jon utilizing the field and the cage as much as possible, whether during the day, or even heading out at 10 p.m. to get some work in.

The batting cage still gets used to this day, with Jon Jon hitting off a tee or having a friend come over to throw soft toss to each other. Even just this past Christmas in 2023, all three boys returned home and went outside to play catch, even though the older brothers have been away from the game for a few years.

“I was just watching from the upstairs window thinking, man this is great, just seeing them play,” Michael said. “They’re all best friends.”


With his family’s support, Jon Jon has been able to create memories throughout his baseball career that will stick with him for the rest of his life. Even with his brothers eventually moving on from the sport to pursue other career paths, Jon Jon stays motivated to make his dream to play in Major League Baseball come true.

Christian and Brandon want their brother to get to the highest level, doing everything they can to make Jon Jon’s dreams come true. This includes still working with him to this day to improve his game, years after both of their playing careers ended.

Even one of the plays that the brothers worked on paid off this past spring at Austin Peay. A quick transfer from the glove to first by Jon Jon in a game this past season caught the attention of the live broadcasters. Teri immediately noticed that the transfer was something that Brandon had been working on with his brother when he was home previously.

Even though Jon Jon is playing at a level higher than where his brothers made it, he still takes every opportunity to pick their brains and learn lessons from their playing days.

“Jon Jon is a sponge,” Michael said. “If he’s not watching baseball, he’s playing a baseball game, he’s learning new stuff … Jon Jon’s always looking for that guy who’s better than him, and trying to learn from them.”

Even when adversity has come to the Gazdar boys, they’ve shown an ability to make the most of their opportunities and work hard. Jon Jon has seen firsthand from his brother Brandon how he can make the most of a situation that doesn’t play out how you expect.

Brandon played baseball throughout high school and even went to Los Medanos College to continue playing the game the boys grew up with. A shoulder injury ended his career on the diamond earlier than he hoped, and it was time for him to find a new career to pursue.

With the athletic genes that he was given in the back of his head, Brandon decided to pursue a different sport after finding that working a normal 9-5 job wasn’t fit for him. Golf had been a hobby growing up, but he never gave it the same attention as baseball. That mindset changed quickly after picking the sport back up.

It was a rough start back up to his career on the links, but within four years, Brandon went from hitting 42 over par in his first time back out, to now averaging four under par and being a professional golfer on the verge of the PGA Tour.

To Jon Jon, this was no surprise, based on the way the brothers grew up and their drive to always be the best at whatever they did.

“[Brandon’s] work ethic is second to none,” Jon Jon said. “Growing up and being around him, hearing the way he talked and the way he talked about chasing his dreams and going after everything that he wanted in life, I’m not surprised [he’s had so much success].”

Christian’s career also ended short of playing professionally, but it came with no sorrow. He appreciated the experiences and memories he played through.

Seeing his own brothers work through adversity and make their dreams still come true has been a big motivator for Jon Jon in his pursuit of his own goals, seeing from someone firsthand that hard work truly pays off.

“They were inspiring, as they always are,” Jon Jon said of the message he received from his brothers about continuing to strive for his dreams. “They just told me, ‘Keep going, keep doing what I’m doing, take the right path, go about things the right way and things will pan out for you.’”

His goal of becoming a professional baseball player has been the same since he picked up a glove and a bat. Jon Jon has no plan B, and knows that no matter what is ahead in his future, his love for the game of baseball will never go away.


Jon Jon debuted on the varsity team at Northgate High School as a sophomore, and batted .338 with 11 RBI and 17 runs scored in 24 games. He hit .337 as a junior, with 21 RBI in 25 games and was a DAL Foothill Second Team All-Conference selection.

Coming out of high school, Jon Jon was the only one of his three brothers who wasn’t named the MVP of his team, and held just two college offers. Following in the footsteps of his two siblings who held down the shortstop position for multiple years before he made the jump created expectations for how the youngest Gazdar brother had to perform.

The lack of college offers was the biggest source of adversity that Jon Jon had faced at that point in his career, but he learned from his brothers how to handle it the right way.

“I had a good summer my junior year, heading into my senior year … but I didn’t get too many looks [from colleges],” Jon Jon said. “I’d say that kind of shaped a little bit of a chip on my shoulder.”

With his brothers going through the recruiting process a few years prior, Jon Jon felt confident that he knew how to make things work, no matter the circumstances. He learned how to talk to coaches, what to expect at each stage and most of all, that he should go to a school that truly wanted him.

While still in high school, Jon Jon committed to play ball at San Jose State for the Spartans. This was the Division I opportunity that he’d hoped for since he was a kid.

Unfortunately for Jon Jon, things at school initially didn’t go according to plan. After being redshirted, he decided it was time to enter the transfer portal.

“Following [the redshirt] year, I definitely had a chip on my shoulder,” Jon Jon said.

“I only knew that that was gonna make him a stronger person,” Teri said. “When you tell him that you’re [too] slow, or you’re this or you’re that, he’s gonna take that, and that’s what he’s gonna work towards.”

Jon Jon decided to go the junior college route, passing up on a full-ride scholarship to play baseball at San Francisco State. The Division I level was all he wanted, knowing that playing JUCO instead of Division II gave him a better chance to play with the best college players in the nation and set himself up for better opportunities in the future.

Passing up on the full ride was seen as a mistake initially by Michael, who knew that JUCO baseball would be tough. The toughness of grinding through a JUCO program ended up being a positive, helping Jon Jon become the player he is today.

Commuting roughly an hour every single day for school and baseball was the hardest grind that Jon Jon had endured, truly putting his love for the game on display.

“I didn’t want to be at a junior college for my third year of school,” Jon Jon said. “That whole year, going against the odds, I had to go through the whole recruiting process again, but I loved it.”

The grind paid off in the end, with Jon Jon appearing in 38 games at Chabot College, batting .325 with 12 doubles, 22 RBI and 33 runs scored with 18 stolen bases. He was named to the Second Team All-Coast North Conference, earning himself another shot at a Division I program.

Austin Peay State University was not a school on Jon Jon’s radar at any point before receiving an offer from the team to come play. After one visit, he decided the school seemed like a perfect fit and committed.

The visit came during Jon Jon’s time playing with the Komoko Jackrabbits. One of his summer ball teammates Matt Aribal also received an offer to play for the Govs, and the two took the visit together before both committing.

“Every day is a blast when you’re around that [Austin Peay] coaching staff,” Jon Jon said. “Every day there’s gonna be energy and there’s gonna be people that are excited to be at the field.”

After a solid 2023 season with the Govs where Jon Jon hit .308 with 24 doubles, 35 RBI and more walks than strikeouts, he was put on the 2023 Brooks Wallace Award Watch List, and eventually, after a brief six-game stint in the California Collegiate League, the Hyannis Harbor Hawks came calling.

20240615_DMV-2 (1)

This was a dream of Jon Jon’s to play in the Cape Cod Baseball League, and the call that Hyannis wanted him made it come true.

“[Jon Jon] was so excited when he got called to the Cape [in 2023],” Teri said. “He comes out of his room, ‘Mom! Mom!’ I was thinking, what happened? He goes, ‘Mom! I’m going to the Cape!’”

Jon Jon immediately became a fan favorite on Cape Cod upon his arrival, with his personality outshining his numbers which were outstanding in their own right. Through 19 games with the team, he finished with the highest batting average among hitters with at least 50 plate appearances at .361, with his presence around the clubhouse helping fuel a Harbor Hawks playoff push.

This experience of playing in the best summer baseball league in the nation helped Jon Jon improve in many different facets of his game, leading to an explosion when he went back to school in the Spring.

His batting average improved by 97 points, from .308 to .405. He also enhanced his power output, with 13 homers compared to just three the year prior. Combine those stats with an increase in just about every other metric there is to judge a player on, and it's no wonder why Jon Jon was named to the 2024 Brooks Wallace Award Watch List for the second year in a row.

With such a great experience playing in the orange and blue, Jon Jon committed to return to Hyannis again for the summer of 2024. In what will be his last summer in college, Jon Jon made the decision he’d like to spend it playing at McKeon Park before even heading back to school in 2023.

“It was just the best option for sure. There’s no other place I’d rather be,” Jon Jon said of his return to the Harbor Hawks. “I had a lot of fun [in 2023].”

Part of the reasoning behind his return was Jon Jon’s experience with his host family in 2023. Knowing that if he came back, he wouldn’t have to meet new people to live with and change houses brought a sense of home and security that it would be another good summer.

Another drawing point for Jon Jon was the new coaching staff coming to Hyannis for 2024. New head coach Mitch Karraker and new hitting coach Sean Riley both coach at different JUCO schools in California, giving Jon Jon an extra reason to feel at home with the Harbor Hawks.

2024 has been a summer preparing for the MLB Draft in July, with Jon Jon working his hardest to improve his stock and hopefully make his dreams come true.

So far in his second summer with the team, Jon Jon has increased on his already impressive numbers from the year prior. With just one game left for his 2024 campaign, he sits with a team-high 17 RBI, 21 hits and two home runs in 18 games. He also boasts a .318 batting average, more walks than strikeouts and has played solid defense throughout the season. He'll be wrapping up his second summer on Cape on Tuesday against Harwich, heading home to be with his family for the upcoming MLB Draft starting on Sunday.


Although Jon Jon has wowed with his individual numbers, his main priority is his team’s overall success. No matter what the numbers are next to his name on the stat sheet, if the team didn’t come away with a win, it doesn’t really matter to him.

It’s been a long road full of ups and downs for Jon Jon throughout his baseball career to this point, working through adversity with his family being the backbone to his success. The support of his family has led to the ability to continue to chase his dream of making a Major League Baseball roster.

And if there’s anything that stands out about Jon Jon, it’s that he won’t give up until he gets there.

“If you look at a clock, and you say what percentage of this clock is baseball to [Jon Jon], it would be about 98 percent,” Michael said.

“[Baseball] means everything to me. It’s what I work my life around, but I love it,” Jon Jon said. “I’m really passionate about it. It’s the one place where I get to really be myself and go my hardest. I know that everything that I’m working towards and grinding for is going to the right purpose.”

Mike Maynard can be reached at and followed on Twitter/X @mikecmaynard.