The 2012 Oakland A’s have displayed a hustle and resiliency that has been sorely lacking since…well let’s say 2006. Take for example, Saturdays extra inning victory in Tampa Bay. Facing a Rays team who have been near unbeatable at the Tropicana Dome, Oakland rallied in extra innings to pull off a shocker of a win in a game that they seemed destined to lose. At the very heart of this triumph, was the play of Jonny Gomes. In a game in which he came off the bench, he made his presence felt with a spectacular leaping catch in left field in the bottom of the 10th inning robbing Carlos Pena of extra bases. Following a Brian Fuentes houdini act in the bottom of the 11th, Gomes clubbed the eventual game winner with a solo blast off right hander
Joel Peralta to left leading of the top of the 12th. With a pump of the fist, Gomes had been the difference maker despite playing less then half the game. Shortly thereafter when Grant Balfour closed out the game the A’s had a victory in Tampa Bay. Becoming only the second visiting team to do so in 2012.
With his mohawk flowing, and his tattooed muscles bulging Jonny Gomes resembles more biker than baseball player. Upon each home run hit, he circles the bases at a pace only slightly slower than Adam Rosales. That’s fast in A’s terminology, folks. As he crosses home plate, he rips his batting helmet off exposing his gravity defying locks, bashes forearms with the on deck hitter and heads into the dugout making a point to pound fists and high five with each teammate. When relegated to the bench, he is amongst the first to rise to congratulate a teammate offering enthusiasm and encouragement in infinite amounts.
Providing the A’s with an intangible that has been lacking in recent years. Heart. Well, power too but for the sake of the article let’s focus on heart. Miles and miles of heart. In essence to the A’s, he’s the anti-Matt Holiday. He swings hard, runs hard, and plays hard for a his a team he dreamt of playing for as a child. He signed to play for the A’s willingly, spoke of his love for the organization, and although his play has been split primarily at DH with Seth Smith he has thrilled fans with his moon shot home runs and his full effort play having many fans clamoring for more.
What many fans don’t realize is that all that Jonny Gomes has accomplished in professional baseball so far, and all that he will achieve came some close to never happening. During the winter of 2002, he suffered a heart attack at the young age of 22. The attack was the result of a clogged artery and came out of nowhere. These kind of things just don’t happen to 22 year olds with a clean bill of health. They don’t happen to professional athletes. They don’t happen to people with 8 % body fat. They don’t happen to athletes who stay clean and pass every steroid and substance test with flying colors. Yet, this happened to Jonny Gomes and it nearly took his life. He ignored the symptoms for 27 hours. Sleeping through the chest pains and tingling feelings in his arms, he only headed to the hospital after briefly losing consciousness after eating dinner with his brother. As doctors ran a myriad of tests, concluding that a pinched coronary artery was the cause of the attack, he was alerted that if he had fallen asleep once more it may have been for the last time. The heart attack, had no lasting physical effects on Gomes. He has received a clean bill of health ever since, and Tampa Bay trainers kept nitroglycerin pills on hand for years after, in case he ever suffered another attack. Thankfully, they never had to be used.
Jonny Gomes plays the game the right way. He doesn’t play for money, or fame. He plays with such energy and determination, that it is spreading to each of his teammates providing an identity and a positive focus on a franchise that so desperately needs it. Perhaps, the A’s have found a player who offers something that can’t be measured as a statistic. Heart. You gotta have heart.