Padecky: Major League Baseball veteran, Petaluma native Jonny Gomes waiting for sport to return
To know Jonny Gomes is to hear someone who would make a lousy politician. He speaks in a straight line. Direct. Clear. No drifting to confusion or uncertainty. No hiding a thought, an opinion, wondering how it’ll be received. Gomes takes the doubt out of being close.
There was no hint of a surprise that was to come when Gomes spoke of what baseball has meant to him. Now a minor league instructor for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Gomes has no problem explaining to the hopefuls what the sport has done for him.
“It wasn’t just a game to me,” said the Casa Grande graduate, who grew up in Petaluma but now lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. “It was my life. It was my best friend. It could change my mood, bring me up when I felt down. It was my everything. I was married to the game.”
That obsession carried him to the big leagues, 13 years in Major League Baseball. He played for seven teams, including two stints with the A’s. Played in a World Series. Made some very nice coin. Gave a very emotional speech from the stage during Kansas City’s World Series victory parade in 2015. All the words and the emotion behind them cannot be repeated here, as some of them might stiffen the back of those who use “gosh” as an expletive.
Two sentences are PG-13 suitable.
“You want a PC (politically correct) person? I’m not a PC person!”
The Royals crowd went nuts. That’s vintage Gomes. His personality is connected to an electrical socket somewhere. His emotions are like his eyebrows. They go everywhere he goes. Like his opinions.
And again he stayed true to his nature when he was asked if there would be any lingering effect from the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal that rocked the sport this past offseason. Would time diminish the tarnish?
“It’s never going away,” Gomes said. “Ten years from now they’ll be some guy sitting behind a dugout banging on a trash can. I’m actually surprised the punishment wasn’t more severe.”
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred took the easy way out and left players free from discipline. If Manfred really wanted to know why electronic sign stealing was so disgraceful, embarrassing and like a hand grenade to the very integrity of the sport, he should have asked Gomes for his opinion. If Manfred had, he could have appreciated the gravity of the situation a bit more.
It had to do with weiging the three black marks that have smeared the sport.
“If I was a pitcher,” Gomes said, “I had these three choices: Face a batter that was on steroids. A batter who bet on the game. A batter who knew every pitch that was coming. I’d rather face the first two. It’s the worst way to cheat, knowing the pitch that was coming.”
Gomes, 39, is not a newbie. He knows the parameters of acceptance in baseball. Letting the infield grass grow or cut it down depending on the skills at the plate. Watering the infield to slow down sprinters. Nodding in respect at the base runner on second who is savvy enough to steal signs by looking at the catcher. Studying a pitcher’s release point to see a different angle for different pitches.