Transition to Tribe seamless for Gomez
Utility man talks about leading by example, off-field pursuits
The trade might not have exactly sent fans dashing to the ticket windows.
But Chris Gomez has offered an undeniable lift to the Indians since they acquired the utility man from the Orioles for $20,000 on Aug. 10. The 36-year-old former shortstop, who made his debut with Detroit in 1993, had 10 hits in his first 25 at-bats with the Tribe to raise his season average to .314.
And his impact transcends the field. A quiet leader, Gomez is respected by his peers to the point where an offseason story in the Washington Post was headlined, "Utility Man Becomes Key to O's Clubhouse."
MLB.com recently caught up with the Tribe's new addition and talked with him about his life on and off the field. Here are his thoughts:
MLB.com: You've been with the Indians during both their season's lowest point in mid-August and probably their highest point right now. Overall, how has your first month in Cleveland gone?
Gomez: It's been great. Fitting in has been easy, because the guys are such great guys. We don't have a lot of big egos in this clubhouse. Guys go out there hard and root for each other. And that's not surprising because we're having a successful year. The adjustment's been pretty seamless.
MLB.com: You've always been known as a good guy in the clubhouse, a good leader. Your teammate in Baltimore, Brian Roberts, even pleaded with your general manager to bring you back this season. What is it about your personality or the way you go about the game that's so respected?
Gomez: I don't know. I just like to think I go about it the right way. If you just stay professional and go about your job the right way, try not to get too low when things are going bad and not too high when things are going well, I think guys respect that. I'd like to think I'm supportive of my teammates, root for them. You just try to be a good teammate and respect the game, and hopefully that comes across.
MLB.com: Are you into the rah-rah stuff?
Gomez: No, no. [laughs]. I don't think I've ever spoken up in a meeting -- ever. I'm a guy that leads by example, but it's nothing that I do consciously. It's the way I go about things and if guys think that's a leader and something they can feed off of, then great. I don't think leadership can be forced."
MLB.com: You've kind of been an all-purpose guy since the start of the 2003 season. Has the utility role gotten any easier over the years, just in terms of knowing how to approach it mentally?
Gomez: I wouldn't say a whole lot easier. I think from Day 1, I embraced the fact that I was going to be a utility guy. That's the biggest thing, not having the ego and thinking, 'Oh I should be the everyday guy. This isn't right.' I never felt like it's a slap in the face or anything like that. Now I'm just getting more comfortable at all of the positions.
MLB.com: There's obviously a politically correct answer here, but would you rather be a star -- or rather an everyday player -- on a team not doing all that well or a utility guy on a winning club?
Gomez: It's hard for me to say, because I've never been that star [laughs]. I've always been that complementary type guy. That's hard to say. Obviously, winning is the No. 1 goal. You can have good games and if the team loses, you can't sit there and throw a party and truly enjoy it. The goal is to go out there and help the team win. So having a nice game and helping your team win is the best feeling in this game. Winning has to be the common denominator there.
MLB.com This is your 15th year in the big leagues. Which pitcher, past or present, gave you the most trouble?
Gomez: I've always said Kevin Brown in his prime, which was pretty much his whole career. Just nasty, nasty, stuff. It made for an almost uncomfortable at-bat. He just had violent angry stuff and the ball's moving all over the place. He was the type of guy where your thumb's going to end up hurting because you're getting jammed or you're going to foul one off your ankle trying to save yourself. It was always an uncomfortable situation.
MLB.com: What's been your greatest athletic achievement?
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Gomez: Gosh, I don't know. It sounds corny, but probably making it to the big leagues. I've always dreamed of that. I remember thinking as a kid, 'What if I don't become a Major League player?' And I'd just be like panicking [laughs]. Like I couldn't believe there was anything else in this world. And for it to actually happen and to have as long a career as I have had, it's really been unbelievable."
MLB.com: What are your hobbies/interests away from the game?
Gomez: I've got two small kids now, so it seems like they take up a majority of my time now. But I like all sports, playing them.
MLB.com: Which sports?
Gomez: Oh, basketball, definitely. I love playing basketball, probably more than baseball.
MLB.com: That's not prohibited in your contract?
MLB.com: Yeah, I think it is. But I think that's for organized ball. You can just go shoot around and play a little. I've always said that I want to get in some basketball leagues when I'm done playing. You're always so nervous about getting hurt now. Yeah, I love playing. It's just that all my friends are getting older and are out of shape now, so it's hard to find people who can still play.
MLB.com: What position do you play? Shooting guard?
Gomez: Yeah, being a baseball player, whenever I play, I just stay on the outside and shoot. So I think my game is kind of stuck in shooting mode.
MLB.com: Are you a big reader?
Gomez: Yeah, I try to be, definitely. Mostly nonfiction. I'm reading all the time, whatever it might be, but mostly nonfiction. I like stuff that I can learn from. Stuff that's actually happened interests me more than any fiction out there.
MLB.com: What's the last book you finished?
Gomez: Confessions of an Economic Hitman [John Perkins], actually. It's really good, a scary book.
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.