Sunday Morning Chat: Cleveland Indians’ Yan Gomes Part II
Former Southridge and current Cleveland Indians star Yan Gomes concludes his Sunday Morning Chat with HSBN’s Rick Duteau…
Rick: You obviously play the most demanding position on a baseball field, what can you tell young catchers coming up is the most important thing they should be focused on as a catcher?
Yan Gomes: When you are young they focus on staying healthy. I guess if you want to play you have to stay healthy and take care of your body. But on the field as a catcher you know people don’t understand, like you said it is a very demanding role, but we need to understand that hitting isn’t always going to come for us. It’s not very easy, and you know it’s tough to juggle two things, and I know Terry has really stuck in my head that I need to worry about our pitching. So my main goal every day is just to worry about our defense; hitting is going to come. I know people really care about guys who can hit and once you’re a catcher you really need to focus on your pitching staffs and really worry about what you are doing behind the plate where you can control the pitcher.
Rick: Like many players down here in Miami, you grew up learning the sport in another country. You were taught the game from a Cuban friend of your father. Tell us about learning the game of baseball while many of your friends were likely focused on soccer.
Yan Gomes: That is true; we actually warmed up playing soccer, so there was still soccer going on there then. I mean Cuba is one of the main places for baseball, people know that. The biggest thing in learning baseball in Brazil from a Cuban coach is the discipline of baseball. That is what I think is really huge in Brazil is the discipline that they have. It is almost like a Cuban-style baseball with the coach that we had, but it was also a Japanese-style baseball. The Japanese population in Brazil is really big and that is mostly what our baseball teams consisted of, Japanese-Brazilian players. Like I say, it’s the discipline that we have of staying focused on our tasks. It’s a big focus factor in Brazil.
Rick: So you didn’t have too hard of a time getting baseball games in there with the Japanese population there now. Because I am picturing you as a kid with a baseball saying, ‘I don’t have anyone to play baseball with; everyone is playing soccer’.
Yan Gomes: Well I will tell you what, in school some of the friends that I had, they had no idea what I was doing. You know it’s funny, I still remember when I was a kid I would sit there and do some dry swings and mimic throwing and they had absolutely no idea what I was doing. But it was the culture of the community and I still love it to this day. I mean it was tough going around with our friends and them having no idea what I am doing.
Rick: Something tells me they know now.
Yan Gomes: They do, they do. Baseball has grown in Brazil, I can tell you that.
Rick: Last year you were a major player in helping the Brazilian national team qualify for the World Baseball Classic. Then after qualifying you chose to stay off the World Classic roster to concentrate on your Indians career. How hard was it to make that decision, and what factors went into making such a tough choice?
Yan Gomes: It was tough because it was hard to tell the guys. I focused on explaining it to the main players of the team because I think they would send the message to the rest of the team. So I focused on telling Rienzo, Paulo Orlando, who is one of the older guys, and Barry Larkin, who was our Manager. There was a time when I had just gotten traded to the Indians and I needed to make an impact there. I needed to focus and establish myself in the big leagues. I mean, I had just made it to the big leagues so I wasn’t an established player yet, and I needed to make an impact. I felt I would have made a bigger impact if I had made an impact in my career first. I would have maybe had a bigger platform, I would have had a bigger say in things, and what really helped is that they understood. They understood that what I was doing with the Indians, it was mainly on my career what I could do. It was tough, I mean I still talk to my wife about it. When I was watching those games from spring training, and they are on at 4 o’clock in the morning, and I was up watching it and I was like, ‘Man, I wish I was there so bad’.
Rick: It is hard to want to be at two places at once, right?
Yan Gomes: Yes. But, you know, obviously the early part of my career right now has turned out well. It was a good decision. But that was one thing I didn’t want to have stuck in my mind that if something didn’t work out with the Indians I didn’t want to blame the WBC. I felt like I made the right decision and it was nice that a lot of people supported me.
Rick: Especially playing the position you are, the pitchers and catchers arrive earlier and there is so much more work in spring training for that. I am sure that position that you play made it even more of a necessity that this is the right decision to go to Cleveland instead.
Yan Gomes: Yeah, and there was a time when I was told that I was only going to play catcher. You know I came out with Toronto as the super utility guy.
Rick: Yeah, you kind of played everywhere with them.
Yan Gomes: I played everywhere and the Indians told me that I would just play catcher, so I needed to figure a way to just focus on that.
Rick: It worked out pretty well; you had a great year for Cleveland. You won a Silver Slugger Award. Does that validate the decision that you made?
Yan Gomes: Um, sure. I mean, in a way all is coming together because I guess now I can praise that decision that it was good that I decided to stay. But I think it is the support man, I really felt the support that everyone showed with the decision. I mean, I still keep in touch with guys and I was staying in Brazil and they don’t even talk about that anymore. You know they don’t talk about the fact that I didn’t go, because I was able to establish myself in the big leagues. I think they understood that and you know I credit them. I mean the Silver Slug award is…. I guess it is a way of thanking them for supporting me. I worked hard to get to where I am and it was a nice little way to show them I appreciate their support.
Rick: It almost makes it a little more of a reward when you do things like that, because it’s like you are doing it for the entire nation of Brazil.
Yan Gomes: Yeah, and that’s the thing that I hoped my younger brother would realize is that we are both from Brazil, we were born there and he would realize it later that we are not just playing for ourselves, we are playing for something bigger. You know, God has such an amazing plan for us and I think that mine is to show that Brazil is here. We are here to grow as a nation and it is amazing to see the support that they have for me. It really is. I get messages every day how much I mean to them. They see me on TV and they don’t really know the person that I am. I try my best to do that, I try my best to show it to them who I am, so it’s nice.
Rick: Speaking of your brother Juan, it is pretty awesome to have a brother following your path toward the major leagues. I hear he is in the same organization as you. What is that like?
Yan Gomes: Yeah, I will tell you what man, last year when he got drafted, I remember exactly where we were playing. I want to say it was a midday game in Texas and I am walking in to our clubhouse and the first thing I go to check my phone to see if my wife or anybody had texted me, and I look and there is a Sportscenter update that says Juan Gomes drafted by the Cleveland Indians, brother of Yan Gomes. I am getting chills right now; it was a really emotional day for all of us. I know how hard he has worked and he has also had a tough go, and he blames himself a lot for it. He knows he didn’t give himself the best chance, but I think he has got a really great opportunity coming now and he is taking full advantage of it. I mean, it’s exciting. It’s exciting and not many brothers get to say that, and I hope he makes it to the big leagues and we can be the first Brazilian brothers on the same team.
Rick: Yeah, splitting time behind the dish I guess.
Yan Gomes: Yeah, I guess so.
Rick: How good do you think the Indians are going to be this year?
Yan Gomes: I think we are going to win the World Series. I think we were at that point that we needed to make some moves and we did and it’s exciting. I think everybody is hungry. A lot of our guys have been talking to each other and everybody that I talk to are like hey I have been working hard man we are ready to go, I think there is that. Last year we had in a way some hiccups through the middle of the year but we were still right there in the midst of the playoffs towards the end. And I feel like if we realize that some games got away from us that we needed to have and I think they are starting to understand that we have a bunch of core guys coming together and it’s exciting and I mean I can feel it already the fire that we are growing and I mean you should hear Tito. He calls me sometimes and to hear him talk about how excited he is it gets me excited.
Rick: As an outside baseball fan just watching, you know you can almost get that sense that you guys are one of those teams ready to pop and that has the potential, like you said, to win the World Series.
Yan Gomes: We are one of those teams that, I guess the Seahawks kind of had it a couple years ago where we are like, ‘why not us?’. We all think we have all the talent, I think we have a lot of young core guys coming together, and I think we have a good chance.
Rick: You watched several South Florida players like Eric Hosmer and Mike Morse star in the playoffs last year. In recent years players of South Florida roots have really stormed onto the national scene. What is it like to be one of the players that is currently bringing South Florida into the forefront of major league baseball on a national level?
Yan Gomes: It’s pretty great. It just shows the kind of talent we have down here. I think to a lot of parts of the country it is a little unfair because we do get to play baseball all year round. You go up north, like right now where I am in Tennessee, if you are going to play baseball outside you better bring a couple jackets. But it shows the talent, it shows the kind of style of baseball that we have here. I would say in a way Eric Hosmer and Mike Morse are kind of similar players. Hosmer is younger and he plays unbelievable defense and Mike Morse is, he is a scary guy, and so is Hosmer. It just shows. Many more, you know like Machado and Martinez and I probably shouldn’t having started naming players because now I am going to forget somebody. But there is a lot of talent down here and I mean it shows, it really does show. You see the high school talent down here. I think people know.
Rick: In closing, tell our young players reading this interview what it takes to prepare mentally and physically for playing baseball for a living.
Yan Gomes: Just understand that you are playing a game. Understand that it is the same game you played when you were a young kid. Have fun. It gets tougher because the stakes get higher, there is more money involved, and there are more people watching. You can tell the guys that are successful there, the guys that can take it. They have fun with the game. It is 162 games that we play in the big leagues and, you know, just enjoy it. When you were a kid you weren’t mad every time you got out you were just having fun while you were there. For me it is such a blessing to be playing the game that I love. God has blessed me in so many ways. You know, I thank him every day for that. He has put this opportunity that we have here and I think for us, especially the South Florida guys, we understand the responsibility that we have. God has put us there for a reason and to show other kids that the game is fun. Just enjoy it; don’t take it too seriously.
Rick: Well, I also thank you for taking the time. This has been a fantastic interview and I also wish you the greatest amount of success this year. Now go win the World Series with Tito.
Yan Gomes: Thank you. I appreciate it.