Drive helped gifted Gomez transition to US, emerge as Brewers star
MAY 13, 2014 2:20p ET
FOX Sports Wisconsin is presenting a special series on the Brewers in the Dominican Republic. The second special airs Wednesday, May 14 after the Brewers-Pirates game, and is on Carlos Gomez, as we trace his roots from growing up in difficult circumstances and follow his journey to major-league All-Star.
For 45 straight days, Carlos Gomez ate combo No. 7 from Wendy's.
Gomez only knew how to say numbers in English when he first came over to the United States at 16 years old, so he picked the number he was most comfortable with and ordered it.
"I don't like pickles and I didn't know how to say pickles and for like a couple of weeks that bothered me to eat pickles every time because I don't like," Gomez said. "And then I learned how to say pickles and I say no pickles, no onion and then my sandwich is better."
The challenges faced by young baseball players coming from Latin American to pursue a dream are great. It would be so easy for a homesick 16-year-old away from his family for the first time to turn back around and give up.
Gomez couldn't do that. He had to make it. He had to do it for the sake of his family.
"Crying every day," Gomez said of his early days in the United States. "Every time I wake up and look myself in the mirror I'm crying and then I get angry. I would start telling myself why you cry about? You don't want to make your families different? You're the one want to make your family a better life."
His drive kept him going, but Gomez's talent made him standout.
Gomez quickly became one of the top prospects not only in the New York Mets' system but in all of baseball. His five-tool potential brought him to the big leagues with the Mets in 2007. At 21 years old, Gomez wasn't ready to meet the lofty expectations placed on him
"Carlos was always blessed with great tools," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "He could run, he could throw, he could hit for power just a matter of putting his game under control. I think it goes back to the expectations of the player. He's a player that puts high expectations on his ability to perform.
"I believe putting him in the big leagues too early hurt his development."
Those expectations also made Gomez a hot commodity on the trade market and a coveted piece when the Minnesota Twins were negotiating the Johan Santana trade with the Mets. Gomez was dealt to the Twins in February of 2008 and was instantly faced with an impossible task: replacing Torii Hunter in center field in Minnesota.
Gomez's first full season in the big leagues featured some good moments -- he hit for the cycle in May of 2008 -- but also had its fair share of struggles. He hit .258 with seven home runs, 59 RBI and 142 strikeouts in 153 games in 2008.
"My first year was really tough because I was doing so bad because I have no experience," Gomez said. "I be in the minor leagues three and a half years then come to the big leagues when everybody knows what they have to do is only throw me a ball and I'm going to swing at it."
Then the bench coach with the Angels, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke had the same scouting report on Gomez.
"When I saw him when he was with Minnesota, if you flipped up three curveballs in the dirt he swung at three curveballs in the dirt," Roenicke said.
The Twins tried to mold Gomez into the player they wanted him to be instead of letting him play the way he needed to in order to be successful.
"I suffered a lot because I said, 'How does he strike out? How, how do you leave that ball there?'" Carlos Gomez Sr. said. "I suffered that because I knew he knew how to play. He swings at that bad ball and strikes out."
In the Milwaukee Brewers, Gomez found the organization willing to let him be and wait for his developmental process to come to fruition. Patience was tested when he hit .247 and .225 with under 10 home runs in his first two seasons with the Brewers, but Milwaukee saw a glimpse of the potential in 2012.
Melvin continued to show his faith in Gomez by rewarding the center fielder with a three-year, $24 million contract during the spring of 2012. The Brewers weren't paying Gomez for the player he had been but for who he was about to become.
Questioned at the time, the contract the Brewers signed Gomez to now is considered one of the biggest bargains in baseball.
"If we would have waited we would never have been able to sign him," Melvin said. "We were fortunate that he saw that this was the organization that trusted him. This was an organization that he felt was best for his development and the best place for him to have success."
Gomez rewarded the Brewers for their faith by becoming one of the most valuable all-around players in the game in 2013. He hit .284 with 24 home runs, 27 doubles, 10 triples, 73 RBI and 40 stolen bases while making his first All-Star team and winning Milwaukee's first Gold Glove since 1982.
He's picked up right where he left off last season and entered Tuesday hitting .292 with nine home runs, 10 doubles, two triples and 21 RBI.
"To give me the opportunity to be around good people, to give me the opportunity to be who I am, it's a blessing and that's why I say thank you," Gomez said. "Thank you for everything, and I'm going to continue to be the player that they love to see."
Being himself has led to Gomez finding great success on the diamond, but his style of play has also brought him to the middle of a few on-field incidents. Gomez's passion and attitude is revered in Milwaukee, but he is thought of differently by those who take more of an old-school approach to the game.
"Sometimes people say, 'He's a hot dog, he's cocky,'" Gomez said. "The American player don't understand that we learn the game that way ... You have to be more under control, but sometimes it's hard because we learn that way. It's not like I don't respect anybody. I want to be me.
"Every time I cross the line I feel like something good gonna happen. 40,000 people watching me, it's a good feeling. That's why every game I give everything I have.
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