Posts Tagged Alex Gomes
Funny how life throws curve balls and it was only discovered thanks to a rain postponement of our Carolina Mudcats game. Instead of working, I was home watching the sports and heard that in a couple of days, the Division II College Playoffs and Championship would be played in Cary NC, only twenty-five minutes from my home. As I googled the teams playing, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Southern New Hampshire was the number seven seed. I had interviewed their ace Alex Gomes two years ago when he played summer ball in the New England Collegiate Baseball League for the North Adams Steeplecats.
It turned into a long day between my job for the minor league team (only when you have something going on later, do they go on long inning sprees and a delay for bench clearing!) and going to Southern New Hampshire’s game. I battled two heavy rain showers between the two ballparks. When I got to Cary, the weather was gorgeous, but the first game with Angelo State and Wingate was running late due a weather delay. The game ended at 6:45PM (forty-five mins after the scheduled start of Southern New Hampshire and second-seeded Seton Hill game). They rescheduled the second game to an 8PM start. The teams were already there resting on a grassy hill so I’m not sure why the much later start.
I was initially told at the field that SNH would be on visitors’ side and their dugout would be on 3rd base side. It was a perfect location as I had a seat right over the dugout and adjacent to the bullpen so I knew I would be able to yell to Alex. They ended up on the 1st base side so I moved over. Unfortunately, on that side, the bleachers above the dugout were roped off except to coaches for the other teams who were there scouting and inactive players. I was able to get word to him through the first base coach so he did wave my direction from the dugout.
The game itself was a nail biter with the SNH Penmen scoring first, but the number two seed came back with vengeance and were leading by the fourth inning. SNH would not be denied and thanks to a hit-by-pitch, steal and a wild pitch, they tied the game with two outs in the sixth. An error by the Penmen in the eighth with two outs assured Seton Hill of a 4 – 3 win.
Two days later was Southern New Hampshire facing sixth seed Wingate. Like the Penmen, the Bulldogs had already lost their first game to Angelo State. The winner of this game would move on in the tournament and the season would end for the loser. Wingate had a fan base which had driven the two and half hours from the Charlotte area and appeared to engulf the ballpark. A pretty good contingent of SNH fans, who we cheered with during game one, scattered near the third base area where the Penmen’s dugout was.
A familiar face began pre-game stretches in the outfield. I guess you could call it a two-days early birthday present. Gomes was the starting pitcher for Southern New Hampshire. He came into the tournament with six wins and zero losses. Alex still had the brunette curly hair and the boyish grin I witnessed two years ago. When he took to the mound, his six-foot three-inch frame commanded respect. As he threw, his right leg was extended and nearly parallel to the playing field. Imagine Dragons’ “Whatever It Takes” blared over the PA system. His determined demeanor was like a racehorse as referenced in the lyrics.
The game stayed knotted at zero until the fifth inning when the “can’t get the third out” reared its ugly head again as Wingate scored two runs on Alex and the defense. Apparently, Coach Loiseau hadn’t given up on his starting pitcher as Gomes returned in the sixth inning and shut the Bulldogs down. Despite the blemish of the two runs, Alex’s start was very good. In his six innings, he gave up seven hits, seventy-one of his hundred and five pitches were strikes and he had eight strikeouts, one walk and a wild pitch. Once out of the game, Alex donned a blue towel on his head and cheered his team on each inning. It was not until the bottom of the ninth that there was any offense by the Penmen. Wingate prevailed 3 – 2 and went on to win the championship a few days later.
After the game, Gomes walked alone to the outfield and stood out there for a few minutes, then returned to the dugout. His catcher, Marcus Chavez, tried to take his arm. Alex shrugged him off and continued walking. Unlike the previous summers, he has not shown as playing collegiate baseball. Perhaps it was the end of the road for the right-hander. I hope not.
This column runs in the Fall 2019 issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country
The Boys of Summer was more than a Don Henley hit – for me, it was my Summer of 2019. We had just made a major move from Texas to the Raleigh, North Carolina area accomplished in a quick two months. I yearned for a real vacation away from the lingering boxes. While perusing an email from Tanglewood, the Western Massachusetts summer home for the Boston Pops, I discovered Josh Groban was going to be there in concert July 2nd. It would be an easy day and a half drive from our new abode. I didn’t have to twist hubby’s arm; it’s his favorite singer.
The concert was awesome. Josh bantered with the audience between sets and the two hours flew by. Next was finding a small town to view 4th of July festivities. I hit the jackpot – a parade in my hometown – Williamstown — and fireworks after a New England Collegiate Baseball League game in North Adams, the next town over. I had actually marched in the Williamstown parade back in the late 50s! Things sure had changed. No baton twirler like me, but many more participants including the baseball team playing that night and instead of just at the elementary school, it was a sixteen minute walk to Spring Street.
After the parade, we looked for a place to eat late lunch which was not easy on a holiday. After trying several places with indefinite waits in Williamstown, we drove to North Adams and discovered the Trail House. While waiting on my burger, I gazed out the window to the people eating in the outdoor seating. Just like a magnet, I zoomed-in to a party of three. One was wearing a Vermont Mountaineers T-shirt. Our waitress confirmed the wishes racing through my mind – the baseball teams, frequented the restaurant. “I’ll be right back.” “You’re not….” my husband interjected. I was already on the patio! It turned out that it was the parents of the starting pitcher for Vermont that night and his twin brother Matt. I learned that Ryan Murphy was a top prospect and playing in the New England Collegiate Baseball League for the summer. Unfortunately, their food came right as I learned Ryan had broken Matt’s nose while throwing. Bad timing by the kitchen!
We got to the ballpark right as the Vermont Mountaineers’ bus was unloading. I wondered how many of these kids I would see in the big leagues in a few years. According to Ryan’s dad, his son would be. Once inside, I headed to the 1st base side where the North Adams Steeplecats were warming up and stretching. The great thing about the collegiate league is that pre-game, the players chat with the fans. It was there I met Alex Gomes. I knew immediately by his right arm, he was a pitcher. He was impressed. I laughed and said, “Catcher was out – you’re too tall.” I bragged to him that I knew Bobby Witt, retired Texas Rangers “rightie” and that his son Bobby, Jr. had just been drafted 2nd in the MLB draft. Alex said, “Oh! You need to meet our Mason Ronan! He was drafted by the Red Sox last year but he’s staying at Pitt to honor his commitment there. Mason! I’ve got someone I want you to meet!” The next thing I know I’m shaking hands with the leftie and Alex is positioning us for a picture together!
The game started as Ryan’s dad predicted. Ryan shut down the Steeplecats holding them to two runs (only one of them earned) and struck out five in five innings. Once he left the game with a 4 – 2 lead, North Adams began their comeback. The relievers held the Vermont team scoreless while the offense chipped away inning by inning. Our excitement wasn’t just the comeback; it was when four of the players came up in the stands and Alex was one of them. They were selling chances at fifty cents each and the number drawn would split the winnings with the team. Alex smiled as Rick dug out his bills and pulled out a ten. “Good luck, Sir” and winked at me. It was fun watching the players interact with the fans. After North Adams won 5 – 4, the team came into the stands and shared high 5’s with fans! It was an incredible night and the baseball that we knew back in to the 60s before money and celebrity took over. Long live the Collegiate Baseball Leagues!! Yes, it was a summer to remember – Ryan, Alex, Mason, and the other Boys of Summer!