One can imagine that when you see Jonny Gomes in the Red Sox’ locker room without a jersey on, all tattooed up on his back and shoulders, he has to look like a psychedelic Grizzly Adams. In Gomes’ case, a book certainly can’t be judged by it’s cover.
A recent article by Scott Lauber in the May issue of Boston Baseball Magazine revealed Gomes’ unique ability to survive and inspire. After reading the piece I came away understanding much more about this tough guy with a distinctly human heartbeat.
The child of a single parent, Gomes and his brother scuffled growing up in Petaluma, CA, for a time sleeping at friend’s home while their mother pulled together enough money to get a place of their own. He knew adversity early in life and it appears he’s been able to turn that potentially negative experience into a big positive.
After cheating death twice, once as a teenage passenger in car crash that killed a friend sitting next to him and another as a 22-year old young adult who survived a heart attack, Gomes is uniquely positioned to accentuate the positive and uplift those who are down.
After the Red Sox touched down in Cleveland in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings and learned what had happened, Lauber reported that Jarrod Saltalamacchia asked teammates what they could do to help. Jonny Gomes said, “I’ve got this.”
After taking some notes, Gomes huddled up with Salty and clubhouse manager Tom McLaughlin. The idea? Take a spare jersey and print BOSTON STRONG, 617 and hang it up in the dugout. It was a seemingly small gesture that nevertheless tapped into the city of Boston and in fact all of New England’s wounded psyche, turning an article of clothing into an iconic symbol of unity. That’s how Jonny Gomes rolls.
I was once a lukewarm Gomes fan, measuring him with the cold meat market yardstick that goes with the sports reporting territory. He’s just an OK outfielder and can’t hit right-handed pitching blah, blah, blah. What I failed to realize and what Lauber so eloquently reminded me of was that a human being with a beating heart is what can make the special sauce on a team. Ask his Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Washington and Oakland teammates – all clubs that reached the playoffs three of the five years he was with them – what he brings to table. Winning and the intangibles that fuel the winning are what I suspect would be the answer.
Thanks Jonny. Glad to to have you in Boston.