Life is Fitting Gomes Like a Glove
Got to be honest here, was not sure how the start of this week was going to shake out for me. It was a strange and unusual experience for me to wander past the Tampa Bay Rays Home Clubhouse and summons someone from within the Visitor’s Clubhouse, especially at 11 am. The guy I wanted to see was already working out and visiting with Rays staffers he had befriended in his years with the team.
I was on a personal fact-finding moral imperative type mission. Well, I did have to pull a string or two with someone outside the Rays media department, but it was for a really good cause. Besides a few Spring Training games and spotting him in off-the-field locales before his team moved their Spring home to Arizona, I had missed chatting with this player.
I used to make a special effort to walk down to the dugout rail before games and chat with this guy whenever possible, heck I am even writing this blog wearing his Rays batting gloves just for effect. Monday was the first time I would get an honest chance to interact with my favorite all-time Rays player.
I was hoping to catch up a bit on his life since he removed his last Rays blue jersey. Wondered to myself if he still had that specially made Rays robe, or still has a savoring palate for Patron Tequila or victory cigars. Wondered if he still has his home in the Jungle Prada section of St. Petersburg, or if he had finally found what he was always running full speed towards in life.
I made sure to bring a small finely chilled token of my past beverage alliance knowing that this guy always got a kick out of consuming mass quantities of energy drinks. When I was with Pepsi, I used to bring cases of energy drinks to this Tasmanian Devil whirling dervish. Fitting that the drink he really responded to most was the old Mountain Dew AMP Superman, but what else would satisfy a guy who always seemed as animated as a cartoon character.
I daydreamed back for a moment to his Rays image as a bit of a free spirit on adrenaline that always was there to poured beer or Patron for his teammates and Rays Manager Joe Maddon during the Rays 2008 post season. Remembering again very vividly a guy who sported the Rays-hawk with ceremonial pride, shaving off his usual curly locks.
Was not sure if I was about to meet the Seminole Hard Rock late night patron that was the life of the party. Instead I was greeted with a firm handshake of a mature Jonny Gomes. His world had changed dramatically since Game 5.5 of the 2008 World Series.
He had left the team he always dreamed of playing his entire career with, and ventured into a entirely new color scheme. Gone were the youthful aspirations of running into a WWE ring, offset by the golden wedding ring on his finger.
He has finally found her, and she grounded him. He had become a father to an adorable daughter, and was anxious for her to grow up and achieve great things. His past animated character still shined through, but his excitement now was filled with career security and sheer adulation for his little one
I stood there and listened for a bit and gained a huge new respect and admiration for the transformed Gomes. I got a great new energy vibe from Jonny and wanted only success on and off the field for him. I did not want to leave, wanted to stay there and hear more and more about Cincinnati, 5-way Chili and the ever expanding Gomes galaxy.
But I unfortunately had to get back to my own daily routine, but made sure to return the firm and hearty handshake to the guy who found his answers away from the confines of the Trop. As I began to leave I turned and told him I was proud of his success both in life and on the field. Reminded him that he would only hear cheers where Carl Crawford heard jeers in his return to his “first home”.and wished him a great series.
Gomes ended going 3-10 against his old squad, starting the series by launching a vintage Gomes shot to Leftfield off of Jeremy Hellickson on Monday night. He was also on base when Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan connected off of James Shields to win the get-away Wednesday afternoon contest.
As I sat there and watched as Gomes rounded Third Base, it reminded me of just how far he has come in less than 3 M L B seasons. From a instable career foundation with the Rays to a solid base with the Reds. Going from late night reveler to late night bottle butler. From a lady’s man to a devoted husband. All changes that fit him perfectly….like an old Batting Glove.