Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Meet PTown's Pros: Jonny Gomes

JONNY GOMES (OF,Cincinnati Reds, MLB):

PTown Connection: Jonny grew up in Petaluma and played Little League for Petaluma American and Petaluma Valley. He made the Casa Grande High School Varsity squad as a sophomore. And he always makes coaching at Petaluma's Camp For A Cure a priority, even if it means a red-eye flight after a World Series Game.

Career Highlights: Jonny's first All-Star Season was as a Junior Leaguer for Valley Little League. He hit 3 home runs in two days. Jonny then played high school ball at Casa Grande High School where he was a member of the 1998 Championship team that began the Gaucho's dominance of high school baseball in the Redwood Empire. He was a strong player that got better every year earning the Most Improved Player Award each of his years at Casa. He capped his high school career with a First Team All Empire Selection as a senior. Jonny then played for Santa Rosa Junior College where he struggled a bit. In a game at the end of his sophomore season, Jonny caught the attention of a Major League Scout named Hank King... Not with a home run or a diving catch, but with two pop flies that hung in the air for 7 seconds. Jonny was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 18th round of the 2001 Amateur Draft . He won Appalachian League MVP his first season. He had a cup o' coffee on September 12, 2003 at Yankee Stadium hitting 2 for 3 as DH for the Rays. He was called up for good in June of 2005 and sparked a struggling Rays team to an amazing second half turnaround. Gomes belted three homeruns in one game, a walk off home run later in the season, and became a fan favorite with his diving catches and head first slides. He ended his rookie season with a .282 batting average, 21 home runs, 54 RBIs and 9 stolen bases, earning second or third place in all of the major American League Rookie of the Year polls. On February 11, 2006, Petaluma recognized his accomplishments at Petaluma American Little League’s Ballpark with "Jonny Gomes Day". Gomes blazed onto the scene again in 2006, leading the American League in home runs through the end of April when a shoulder injury began to hamper his swing. In August 2006, he had season ending surgery to repair the damage. Still a fan favorite, he was a spot starter at DH and occasionally RF against left handed pitching during 2007 and 2008. 

At the 2009 All-Star Break: Jonny was signed by the Cincinnati Reds in January, 2009 after playing in the Tampa Bay Rays organization since 2003.  Unable to reproduce his '05 ROY Runner-Up stats in subsequent years, Jonny and the Rays parted ways after Tampa Bay's 2008 Cinderella season but Gomes will be sporting his American League Championship Ring next time he's in PTown. The Cincinnati Reds offered Jonny a 2009 minor league contract and a Spring Training invite and he was on fire until the final days of Camp. The club opted to send him to AAA Louisville where he got his bat going again and was called up to the major league club in late May. Used primarily against lefties off the bench as a pinch hitter in late innings, he's had a good number of starts in the outfield as well. He had exceptional numbers during interleague play as the team's DH and currently has the third highest average on the team, hitting .311. His hitting versus right handed pitchers has improved considerably and his power numbers are nearly as good against RHP as lefties. In 90 at bats, he has 12 extra base hits, including 5 home runs and is behind only 1B Joey Votto in On Base Plus Slugging at .956. Opportunity knocks for Jonny in the second half. Starting right fielder Jay Bruce is on the DL with a fractured wrist which should generate regular at bats for Gomes. The Reds are within striking distance of the NL Central leading Cardinals, especially if they can start getting the runner on third home instead of leaving him stranded.

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