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How cheating death (five times) has molded Jonny Gomes

06.07.13 at 2:27 am ET
By

Jonny Gomes (AP)

Jonny Gomes raced back, reached up, snagged Jurickson Profar’s fourth-inning blast just before the left field wall and proceeded to lunge onto the warning track, smashing into the Fenway Park metal scoreboard. It wasn’t graceful, but it was fearless.

Later Thursday night, in the ninth inning of what would be a Red Sox 6-3 win over the Rangers, Gomes started what the Sox’ path to their walk-off victory with a leadoff double into the left-center field gap.

For a player who was hitting under .200, the late-inning reeked of familiarity, and for good reason — prior to his four-hit night against Texas Gomes’ on-base percentage starting in the seventh inning stood at .431, best on the team.

Again, with Gomes, it appears there is absolute no hesitancy when it comes to throwing caution to the wind. Living on the edge, without fear of consequence continues to serve him well.

Looking for a reason for the fearlessness? Following the Thursday night win, Gomes offered a glimpse into where the approach has been born from. More specifically, the five occasions that have shaped the approach.

“I’ve almost died five times,” he explained.

It’s not hyperbole. It is Gomes’ reality.

“It’s pretty much how I approach everything,” he said. “I’m not trying to test life. None of those things are adrenaline rushes, but just unfortunate things.”

The first incident came during Gomes’ freshman year of high school, when a candle tipped over, merged with the fluid inside a nearby lighter and set the sleeping bag the youngster was sleeping in on fire. The nylon material instantly started sticking to Gomes’ skin, trapping him inside the bag for a brief while before he could wrestle himself free.

A year later, on Memorial Day weekend, Gomes was involved in a severe car crash that killed one of his best friends, Adam Westcott. It also put Gomes in the hospital for two days while limiting the 16-year-old’s ability to walk for a short time.

His senior year of high school, Gomes was camping with some friends when, as he describes it, “an old, crazy moonshiner lit us up with a bunch of rounds out of a shotgun.” He managed to avoid harm by ducking behind a car, and scurrying away.

Christmas Eve in 2002 came perhaps the most well-publicized of Gomes’ near-death experiences, a heart attack. It warranted a trip to the hospital, with one of the three arteries that leads to the heart having been pinched.

And, finally, came a run-in with a wolf owned by a man who was helping tend to Gomes’ grandmother’s property. “It was 100 percent wolf,” he remembered. “It went right at me.”

There are other numbers that paint the picture of Gomes’ approach, such as his major league-leading batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs last season (13-for-28, .480). Or the unmistakable manner he plays the outfield, trading panache for perseverance.

Thursday offered yet another example of how and why Gomes doesn’t fear death, failure, or left field walls.

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