In most newspaper sports sections around the country it was a small item. Friday night, Jonny Gomes smashed a grand slam homer to give the Oakland A’s a 6-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
I was happy to see it because Gomes is a cool guy and he has had some struggles in recent years. It was a high for him and big hits have been tough to come by for the outfielder the last couple of seasons.
He is hanging in there, trying to stick in the big leagues, so every big hit helps. Gomes is 31. In a career in the majors that began with the Tamp Bay Rays, he has also contributed to the Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals and this year the A’s.
Gomes is a genial guy with a big heart. A couple of seasons ago when he was still with the Reds I told him about an 80-something fan of his in Southern Indiana who said Gomes was his favorite among the 2010 batch of Cincinnati players. He asked me to wait by his locker for a couple of minutes, retreated to deeper in the clubhouse and returned a couple of minutes later with a few autographed cards for the older gentlemen.
Didn’t have to do it. No one was asking him to do it. He just went and did it.
Although his hair style has often changed, Gomes has decorated his body with a number of tatoos. Depending on the ‘do of the moment, he can resemble either Ray Bradbury’s Illustrated Man or Charlie Sheen in “Major League.”
It is actually ironic to refer to Gomes as a man with a big heart because when he was only 22 he absurdly for a professional athlete of such youth suffered a heart attack. Although he did not feel well, Gomes delayed for more than a day consulting a doctor, a decision that threatened his life. But you can hardly blame a guy of that age for not thinking heart attack first. In fact, Gomes was so young he had not yet made his Major League debut.
Maybe a glimpse of your own mortality changes you, but Gomes has long been associated with charitable causes, makes you more sensitive to others’ needs. In Tampa he has been associated with the Boys and Girls Clubs and local school district programs.
Gomes is from Petaluma, California and he has not forgotten his home town. Not only does he have a tatoo of the area code for Petaluma, he has sponsored numerous Little League teams and a charity baseball camp in the California community that raises money for cancer and lupus research.
After close to a decade in the majors Gomes owns a .243 lifetime batting average with 126 home runs and 383 RBIs. He is not going to be a superstar. That ship has sailed. But despite being shunted around between three teams since 2010, Gomes proved the other night he can still savor some bright, shining moments.
The clock is ticking on a journeyman outfielder in his 30s, but I hope Jonny Gomes still produces several more special onfield moments before he is through. He obviously already figured out how to make his time count off the field.
Tags: California Charlie Sheen Cincinnati Reds Jonny Gomes Little League Major League Major Leagues Minnesota Twins Oakland A's Petaluma Ray Bradbury Tampa Bay Rays The Illustrated Man Washington Nationals