Sunday, January 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Series hero Gomes pays tribute to ex-Rays teammate

ST. LOUIS — Amid the flood of text messages Jonny Gomes received after his three-run homer led the Red Sox to a World Series-tying victory Sunday were special words of congratulations from former Rays teammate Rocco Baldelli.

Not only have they remained close — "My main man, a true friend of mine," Gomes said — but he acknowledged Monday that when he came to the Red Sox this spring, he chose to wear No. 5 because Baldelli did.

"I'd be lying if I said that wasn't why I was wearing 5," Gomes said. "I didn't tell him that, I didn't tell anyone that. You'll probably tell everyone now, but I don't really care.

"When you're a kid, you wear your favorite player's number — he's my favorite player. And I was fortunate enough to play with him."

Gomes described Sunday night and much of Monday as "a whirlwind" as he did a steady stream of interviews talking about Sunday's star turn, which was his first hit of the Series. He was in the lineup again Monday, hitting cleanup, but said he also is mindful of how quickly the game can turn.

"I'm a realist, man," he said. "I'm two pitches away from 'back to reality.' "

He did, however, earn a place in the Hall of Fame, happily donating his bat and batting gloves from the sixth-inning blast that sent the Sox to a 4-2 win.

Gomes said he had come close once before to being represented in Cooperstown when he and his brother Joey were both Rays minor-leaguers in 2002: Joey led the NY-Penn League in homers, and Jonny was leading the California League going into the final weekend, and a Hall rep called saying brothers had never led two leagues and asking if they would donate bats and uniforms.

Jonny said they were excited to do so, "then the guy who was two behind me hit three and Cooperstown was like, 'Keep your stuff.' "

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.

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