September 3, 2002

Former Bronco Baseball All-American Joins Brother in Minor Leagues

Sept. 3, 2002

by Scott A. Mayes, staff writer
The Bakersfield Californian

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Michelle Gomes took a six-hour train trip to Bakersfield on Friday to be with her family.

And once she got to Sam Lynn Ball Park to watch her two sons, Jonny and Joey, play for the Bakersfield Blaze, the emotions took over.

"This is probably the happiest day of my life," Michelle Gomes said. "This is really emotional."

Jonny Gomes, 21, has been with the Blaze all year and was recognized as a California League all-star. Joey Gomes, 22, was promoted from Class A (short season) Hudson Valley, N.Y., on Thursday, putting the two brothers on the same team for the first time since high school.

Michelle Gomes was in line to purchase her game ticket when the public address announcer rolled the named 'Jonny Gomes' off his tongue as he introduced the starting lineups.

"I just fell apart," she said. "They've been playing baseball since they were 5 and they've worked hard. They look so good in those Blaze uniforms."

Joey Gomes called Michelle earlier this week to invite his mom to see the boys in Bakersfield, prompting a train trip from Sonoma County where she works as a nurse's assistant.

Holding back the tears, the train trip holds special meaning to Michelle Gomes, who couldn't always afford a simple train trip across California.

Michelle gave birth to her two boys when she was 16 and 17, and was divorced after seven years of marriage.

"It just kind of makes all of this that much sweeter," Michelle Gomes said. "We stuck together and we made it through."

There were plenty of obstacles for the Gomes boys, including being homeless for a period of time.

In 1996, Michelle Gomes stayed in a homeless shelter with her sons bouncing from couch to couch. They also spent some time living out of their car.

During the financial hardship, Michelle Gomes worked as a waitress and picked up odd jobs when she could.

"She's incredible," Joey Gomes said. "She's an amazing woman. For her to have two kids in school before she was 20 is pretty amazing.

"Things have changed some (financially), but it's only going to change the higher we move up."

Joey and Jonny already have their sights set on a car and house for Michelle upon their arrival to the major leagues.

But the Gomes brothers aren't waiting around for anyone to shower them with compassion.

"It's not a sob story, we don't need anyone to feel sorry for us," Jonny Gomes said.

"It really didn't bother us," Joey Gomes said. "We didn't make excuses. What doesn't kill you will only make you stronger."

There were some awkward times growing up, but there were always ways around them.

Joey Gomes said that when it came time for adolescent sleepovers, they were always quick to move the gathering to friends' houses -- keeping quiet about their living situation.

And back to school clothes came down to another creative maneuver which kept their situation out of public knowledge.

"Our uncle gave us each a pretty nice bat every year," Joey Gomes said. "We would take the bats back to Big 5 and get about $100 back. We'd use that for new clothes."

Jonny was an 18th-round pick in the 2001 amateur baseball draft while Joey was an eighth-round pick this year.

Like any set of brothers, there is a friendly rivalry between the two.

"I'm a better breaking-ball hitter," Joey said before Friday's game.

"I'm faster," Jonny added.

"It took me 55 games to get here (to Class A Bakersfield), it took him a whole year," Joey said with a smile.

Joey played baseball at Casa Grande High in Petaluma (graduating in 1998), went to the College of Marin for a year and Santa Clara University for three years.

Jonny also went to Casa Grande (1999 graduation) and went to Santa Rosa Junior College.

In two games so far, Joey has hit cleanup for the Blaze while Jonny has hit in the No. 3 spot. It's the first time they've played on the same team since a brief stint in high school.

"It's just an unbelievable feeling," Joey Gomes said of playing with his younger brother. "It's great to be on deck and watch Jonny hit. It's always been our dream to play professional baseball on the same team. We're just living the dream."

But the dreaming is not over quite yet."Who knows, maybe one day we'll be playing left field-right field, hitting third and fourth in the bigs," Jonny Gomes said.

The Gomes brothers are two of four in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays system who lead their respective leagues in home runs this year.

Jonny Gomes hit his 30th home run of the season Friday against Visalia and Joey Gomes drove in the game's first run with a first-inning single. Joey Gomes led the New-York Penn League with 15 home runs when he left.

"This is my third trip here this year," Michelle Gomes said. "It's hard for me to get away, but I wouldn't miss tonight for the world. I was doing fine until I got here. Sometimes just hearing their names ... they're really good tears, proud tears, happy tears."

Entering Friday's game, Jonny Gomes led the Blaze in hits (120), games (130), runs (101), total bases (249), triples (9), home runs and walks (88). He is also first in the California League in slugging percentage (.578), extra-base hits (62) and home runs and runs scored.

Joey Gomes left Hudson Valley as the team leader in runs scored (45), hits (78), triples (4), home runs (15) and RBIs (48).