Former Southridge standout catcher Yan Gomes enjoyed playing in front of friends and family members in Miami for only the second time in his big league career.
Gomes, who is in his eighth season in the majors, first with the Washington Nationals, had a pair of hits at Marlins Park in a 9-3 loss with a number of supporters there to see him.
“It’s cool,” said Gomes, who last played in Miami in 2013. “I got to see a lot of high school friends, got to go home and see my parents.”
Gomes, a 2006 graduate at Southridge who later played at Tennessee and Barry leaving as a 10th-round draft pick in 2009, grew up near 152nd Street and spent plenty of time around Eureka Drive.
“It’s all I knew about Miami,” Gomes said. “I learned how to survive a little bit. I learned to have a little tougher skin and a little bit more street smarts, but I enjoyed every part of it.”
Gomes enjoyed his time playing for the Spartans.
“I grew up a lot,” he said. “We were so focused on baseball at the time. I had some good coaches, good friends, and good people. We were a good ball club back then. Growing up in Miami is kind of different, especially with where I am now in Knoxville. I got to learn a lot of street smarts and survive a little bit. It taught me a lot.”
He credits his development development as a player to his early days in southern Miami-Dade County after moving to the United States from Brazil when he was 12.
“I got to play with serious players back then, good pitchers and some tough guys,” Gomes said. “It taught me about the toughness of the game. There was a lot of savviness in the game back then too. We got to play against good teams and there’s nothing like playing year-round baseball. I played in a lot of tournaments and played for the Bombers. I learned a lot from the good players Miami brings out.”
Gomes is coming off his first All-Star Game appearance last year with the Cleveland Indians, where he hit .250 with 83 home runs and 295 RBIs over six seasons before he was traded to Washington in November. The All-Star Game was a memorable experience for Gomes.
“It was cool,” he said. “It was a definitely a big accomplishment in my career. It’s something that can make my family and my parents proud just being there at the All-Star Game, but every day I come to the ballpark I feel I’m in the All-Star Game just because of the dream of making it to the big leagues and then accomplishing it. But to play in the game like that, it’s one of those things that you let your family enjoy it a little bit more than you.”
Gomes is hitting .216 with one home run and six RBIs playing in 14 of the Nationals’ first 22 games.
“He’s an unbelievable player and a great teammate,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “One of our quiet leaders in the clubhouse. He brings it every time he’s out there. He calls great games, unbelievable receiver and catcher, and he’s actually swinging the bat well. We love having him.”
The Nationals have started 11-11 as Gomes has been splitting time at catcher with veteran Kurt Suzuki.
“It’s good, we’ve got a great group of guys,” Gomes said. “I’m learning a lot from Kurt. This guy has been in the game for so long so you just try to take in as much as you can with him and hopefully I can bring something to the table to the team too.”
Washington is aiming to get back to the postseason after missing out last year. Gomes, who has been to the postseason the past three years, is hoping to help the Nationals make a return.
“The big thing is you want to take game 1 just as seriously as you would game 162,” Gomes said. “I know when September rolls around that’s when everyone gets real tight because that’s when the rankings and all of the numbers start to get minimized. We definitely have a good enough team, everybody is talking about it, but we just have to start gelling together and play with the same mentality. And I think it’s going to take a little bit, we have a lot of new guys, and just try to get guys to play in the same direction.”