Jonny Gomes is lucky to be alive, let alone a World Series champion.
By his count, Gomes has had five near-death experiences, each of which were detailed in a recent Sports Illustrated article by Thomas Lake. Gomes survived a car accident, escaped a fire that ignited a sleeping bag, had a run-in with a wolf, walked away from an incident in which a homeless man pointed a gun at him and suffered a heart attack. The incidents occurred at various points throughout his life, but each shaped the man and baseball player that Gomes is today.
Gomes and his brother, Joey, recounted some of the aforementioned experiences for Lake’s SI article. Gomes said that if his life was made into a movie it either would be called Grind to Shine or Tough Times Go Away, Tough People Don’t. Joey said that his brother’s film would be called Forever Moment, in reference to the type of moments that each of the Gomes boys tried to capture growing up.
Gomes’ early baseball days, like his personal life, were very interesting. The Red Sox outfielder caught the eye of a scout early in his sophomore season while playing for Santa Rosa Junior College. The scout, Hank King, told Gomes, who hit two towering popups early in a tournament game, to level out his swing. Gomes responded with a rocket over the shortstop’s head and a home run over the scoreboard in left-center field.
Gomes’ hustle, arm and speed also captured King’s attention, although it’s the following exchange that apparently stood out. Lake writes:
“Hey,” King says. “Have you ever thought about being a professional?”
“Hum baby,” Jonny says, using the phrase made popular in the Bay Area in the ’80s by Giants manager Roger Craig.
“Have you ever run a 60 for anybody?” King asks.
No, Jonny hasn’t. So he pulls a time out of the air:
“I can run a 6.5 60.”
“There’s fewer than 100 kids who can run a 6.5 60,” King says. “Six-six? 6.7?”
“I can run a 6.5 60.”
“Kid, if you can run a 6.5 60, you’re Chad Curtis.”
According to the story, Gomes proceeded to run a 60-yard dash in 6.5 seconds the first time he had ever been clocked. He was later drafted by Tampa Bay in the 18th round in 2001, while his brother was selected in the eighth round the following year.
Lake’s article concludes with Gomes’ clutch home run for the Red Sox in Game 4 of the 2013 World Series. The blast came off hard-throwing Cardinals right-hander Seth Maness.
“His stuff gets me out. You know? So it wasn’t like the starting pitcher that was just left in too long,” Gomes told Lake. “I was the first batter he faced. You know? [Cardinals manager Mike] Matheny‘s like, ‘We need him.’ And that guy’s gonna get me out 95 percent of the time. I’m telling you right now. But what’s so great about this baseball game is the only thing that’s 100 percent is touching the dish. Ninety-five percent? Well, that leaves me five. I’m all right with that.”
Gomes’ World Series heroics certainly were “forever moments.” Judging by how interesting Gomes’ life has been, they probably won’t be the last of their kind.