Watching the World Series Sunday night and seeing Jonny Gomes hit a three-run homer to give the Boston Red Sox a fourth-game victory to tie the series with the St. Louis Cardinals brought back some very fond memories of Sonoma Valley High School’s varsity baseball team from the late 1990s – more specifically 1999.
Gomes is a Petaluma-borned professional baseball player who starred for Casa Grande High School, which was, up until it left the Sonoma County League, the Dragons’ biggest rival, with both schools winning or sharing most of the SCL titles at the time.
Prior to his historic World Series blast Sunday night at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Gomes was an impact player at Tampa Bay, Cincinnati and last year with the Oakland A’s, helping them win the American League’s West Division title.
But hitting a World Series home run is what etches Gomes name in the baseball history books forever and I’m extremely happy for this talented, charismatic athlete who has overcome childhood struggles due to poverty, as well as a heart attack in his early 20s, and I had the fortune to follow as the I-T Sports Editor.
After the game I got an email from another major baseball fan who knows Gomes, along with his brother Joey – also a one-time pro player – from a much closer perspective than I did.
It was one of the Valley’s top baseball people, Bob O’Gorman, who was Sonoma’s successful varsity baseball head coach through the 1990s and guided the Dragons to multiple-title seasons and a school record and state-best 27-game winning streak in 1999.
Here’s O’Gorman’s email to me:
“I just finished watching game four of the World Series featuring a three-run home run by Jonny Gomes. I pulled out the scorebook from 1999 to see how Gomes did against Dragon pitching in his senior year at Casa. Nine official at bats, two hits, both singles, and three walks. He was hit by pitches twice, something he has made a practice of doing during his big league career. All of us that were part of SCL baseball when Jonny played are extremely proud of his career. I am sure Devin Macauley and Jimmy Dougherty tell all of there friends how they struck out Gomes when they faced him. Both did – Macauley got him on three pitches, Dougherty (a sophomore at the time) got him on a 2-2 count. We beat Casa four times that year – 10-5, 3-1, 3-2 and 5-4 in the SCL Tournament.”
That was a magical, state-ranked title season for the Dragons and they finally got the better of Casa Grande and their diamond star graduate, who leading up to that year terrorized Sonoma with his bat, arm and personality, which has made him a vital team leader on the field and in the dugout.