BOSTON (CBS) – Jonny Gomes has had more than his lion’s share of near-death experiences.
“I’ve been able to dodge and shake off some pretty interesting situations,” he said.
Speaking to 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich Wednesday morning, Gomes told the tale of when he was younger, cruising around in San Francisco when a homeless man “tripping out on peyote or something” approached his group of friends with a loaded .45-caliber handgun.
“Long story short, the police got him, but it was the real deal. Loaded gun, safety off. Everything. If he wanted to, it could have been lights out right there,” said Gomes.
That was just one time a gun was pulled on the Red Sox outfielder – it also happened once before. Gomes has also been attacked by a wolf, was caught on fire when he was 15 years old and has fallen off a cliff.
Even as a kid, Gomes was never one to cry, but in his first spring training game with the Rays he “just fell apart with emotion overload” after hitting a three-run home run to give his team the lead over the Phillies.
Just a few months prior, he was flatlined on a hospital bed after suffering a heart attack.
That story seems to symbolize Gomes’ underdog career, always having to fight and scrap and earn whatever he gets.
In fact, his brother Joey was considered a better prospect and Fred Toucher pointed out that Jonny wasn’t a particularly great junior college player.
“Statistically I’m not the best Major League player either,” Gomes replied.
“Well obviously you had tremendous physical gifts, but how were you discovered if you weren’t statistically playing well?” Fred asked Gomes.
“I got discovered and drafted basically off a fly ball to second base. I’m in the box and boom I make contact and the ball goes sky high. The scout right at contact hits their stopwatch to see how fast you run to first base. Well it was obviously a pop-up to second so it doesn’t matter how fast you run to first, but he decides to keep the clock running to see how long the ball would stay in the air. By the time the ball came down, I forget how many seconds, for one the ball was in the air for an extremely long amount of time so that means I have bat speed, I just don’t know what I’m doing with it, and when the ball came down I was rounding second base. So to a scout that would show a guy is pretty fast and plays pretty hard.”
Gomes’ work ethic and enthusiasm for the game seems to be infectious. Everywhere he goes and no matter what team he’s on they always seem to have a marked improvement from the previous year.
His Reds team went from fifth place to first place from 2008-2010, on the Athletics he helped them play 20 games better in 2012 and with the Red Sox in 2013, well, we know how that turned out.
It’s unquantifiable, but Gomes is a difference maker – but why is that?
“Without being modest or trying to pat myself on the back I think that would have to be answered by someone else,” Gomes said. “I can answer what I stand for, what I demand out of myself, and what I demand out of myself kind of bleeds and seeps into other ball players. My accountability for myself, my actions and my word hold other people accountable if they’re not hustling, or if they’re not putting team first and win-first being the goal.”
While with the Devil Rays as a young player, his locker was seated in between Tino Martinez and Fred McGriff, so Gomes credits his locker room proximity to those veterans as one way in which he learned to be a leader.
“From a person like me who does respect the game, and is a student of the game, when I do open my mouth it does have backing. I always speak of things that I’m 100 percent accurate with and can be 100 percent accountable with,” said Gomes.
Rich then asked Gomes about the Rajon Rondo situation, and if it’s appropriate for a team captain to not travel with the team so he can celebrate his birthday. Gomes admits he hasn’t been paying attention to the story so it’s hard to knock Rondo in that regard, but he himself personally would never do that.
Gomes likened the Rondo story to one that hits closer to home with a friend of his.
“I’ve worked out with Richie Incognito for the past three years and all this stuff comes out last year,” Gomes said. “I didn’t read one article and didn’t look into it at all because I wanted to talk to him first.”
Gomes says he was “shocked” when he heard the allegations towards Richie and added “he’s a great dude and a great football player.”
Listen below for the full interview and get Gomes’ thoughts on new teammate A.J. Pierzynski, as well as his affinity for tattoos: