Warriors forever: West Orange High retires numbers of alums Nolan Fontana and Austin Gomber | Observer Preps

On a special night, the duo of current professional baseball players were given one of the highest honors an athlete can receive.

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  • | 3:15 p.m. February 6, 2019
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Standing out at center court in front of an intimate crowd, Nolan Fontana and Austin Gomber take in the moment.

Sitting in front of them on a table draped with a blue table cloth are two, round cutouts featuring the No. 4 and No. 23 in an orange block font with a blue outline. It’s their old numbers — the numbers they wore during their baseball-playing days at West Orange.

This night was a special one for the two baseball standouts. Just before the Warriors’ basketball game against Apopka, Fontana and Gomber received one of the greatest honors an athlete can receive — they had their numbers retired. 

Now, no one who steps out onto the diamond for the Warriors can claim Fontana’s No. 4 or Gomber’s No. 23.

“It’s a very humbling experience with this, because sure, we have had great careers and we are still playing — we plan on staying healthy and continuing our baseball careers, our livelihoods — but it all started here at West Orange,” said Fontana, who graduated in 2009. “I’m speaking for both of us — we’re extremely honored with this, because there are a lot of guys that come through here, and there’s a lot of guys still playing.”

The feelings of gratitude toward the honor by Fontana was shared with his former teammate, who also recalled his time at West Orange with fondness.

“It’s awesome to ever be honored at any level — whether it be high school or whatnot,” said Gomber, a 2011 graduate. “This means a lot to me. Playing here meant a lot to me when I was here. To know that the rest of my life I can come back and see my number on the wall — that’s pretty cool.”

Just as anyone would guess, Fontana and Gomber weren’t just handed this honor — they absolutely deserved it.



Although Fontana started playing baseball long before he arrived at West Orange, it was during his years on the Warriors’ baseball team when he really found his groove and became a force at the plate and on the field at shortstop.

During his high-school career, Fontana became “the guy” — thanks in part to his proficient batting and defense.

In fact, by the time Fontana graduated, he had become one of the best hitters in program history with season records for batting average, runs, walks and on-base percentage. Despite being an infield player, he also managed to tie the record for most saves at West Orange.

“There’s so many things I’ve learned,” Fontana said of his time playing baseball. “But if there’s one thing that I know that is the most controllable thing, it’s when you put the spikes on and you go to take the field, you know you’re doing one thing, and that’s competing.”

That competitive spirit — along with his impressive stat-line — led Fontana to the University of Florida. There, Fontana flourished as an All-SEC caliber player and was named to the All-Defensive Team all three years of his career.

He took his next biggest step in 2012 when the Houston Astros drafted him in the second round (61st overall). Years bouncing around in the minors finally paid off May 22, 2017, when Fontana — after being picked up by the Los Angeles Angels off waivers — made his MLB debut.

“I remember it vividly, but the one thing I take away from it is the people who came there to support you and the people who have always been there for you,” Fontana said. “In fact, Jesse Marlo (former West Orange head coach) was there for that game, and being that it was in Tampa was unique. It’s surreal — it’s something you never forget.”

Since that whirlwind of a day, Fontana picked up his first hit (a home run) before going on to sign a deal 18 months later with the Texas Rangers in 2018.



While Fontana dominated at the plate, Gomber took the mound for West Orange as a talented lefty who had the ability to put down an opposing team with ease.

Throughout his playing career for the Warriors, Gomber racked up stats and stats as he became one of the school’s top pitchers. By the time he graduated in 2011, Gomber finished in the top 10 in wins and strikeouts in program history.

His accolades landed him on the baseball team at Florida Atlantic University, where his prowess for pitching really showed in his sophomore year. That year, Gomber tossed a Sun Belt Conference best 2.97 ERA and was named First-Team All-Conference with an 8-4 record on the season.

The work put in at both West Orange and FAU drew the eyes of the front office of the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2014, the Cards drafted Gomber in the fourth round with the 135th pick. Four years later, on June 2, 2018, the Winter Garden native got his chance at the Big Show.

“I remember everything about it — Saturday afternoon, day game, no clouds in the sky, 45,000 people there, running in from the bullpen, those are just moments and pictures that will always be in my head,” Gomber said. “But the biggest things — and coming to West Orange taught me this — is that I’m not satisfied. Our debuts were great, but the next goal is to become an established big-league player.”


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