Marin Independent Journal

Gomez pitches an inning during his `perfect game'

- By Haley Smilow

Rio Gomez has pitched hundreds of innings since his father first introduced him to baseball.

But Wednesday was different.

Representi­ng Colombia, his mother's home country, the Arizona native pitched in his hometown for the first time since his father, longtime baseball reporter Pedro Gomez, died on Super Bowl Sunday two years ago. And Rio was facing the A's, a team his dad covered for the San Jose Mercury News and Sacramento Bee before becoming a star at ESPN.

Rio's mom, Sandi, was in the stands at Hohokam Stadium for the exhibition game and said the scenario couldn't have been much better.

“It just seemed like the perfect game,” Sandi said.

Gomez, who was born and raised in Arizona, got to pitch in front of his mother, friends and a crowd of roughly 2,000 who watched Team Colombia tune-up for the World Baseball Classic with a 3-2 win over the A's.

Rio, 28, is a left-handed pitcher in the Boston Red Sox organizati­on. Picked in the 36th round of the 2017 draft, Rio pitched a scoreless seventh inning — allowing one hit and striking out one.

“Being able to come back and get to wear Colombia for my mom, it's just like everything's coming full circle,” Rio said.

Sandi, wearing a Colombian soccer jersey, was beaming with pride as she watched her son and the rest of the team.

“I was listening to the Colombian anthem and my heart just swells with pride,” she said. “He's playing for my homeland in his hometown and there's nothing better than that.”

The only thing missing from the perfect scene was Pedro.

Pedro passed away of cardiac arrest on Feb. 7, 2021, at 58 years old, but Sandi knows he'd be so proud of their son.

“He'd just be beaming with pride,” Sandi said. “I know that he's with Rio today for sure and I think he'd be so excited. He would be pacing back and forth when he starts pitching because that's what he always did.”

In his 35-year career, Pedro never got to cover his

son in the majors, but he covered more than 20-AllStar Games and 25 World Series and probably was best known for his coverage of Barry Bonds during the former Giants' pursuit of the all-time home run record.

But to Rio, Pedro was a devoted father and the one who introduced him to baseball.

“He was a great father,” said Rio, who has two siblings, Dante and Sierra. “When he was home, he was making dinner and running errands and going to our practices and hanging out with us.”

Rio said he was about three when his dad introduced him to the sport. Rio called his dad his “No. 1 fan.”

“He was everything in my baseball career,” Rio said.

Rio's dad had a positive diamond influence for others as well. He was known for making people smile, asking good questions and being a positive influence overall.

“Pedro was one of the kindest, most joyous kind of guys that you could be around,” A's manager

Mark Kotsay said. “He always had a smile on his face and I really enjoyed talking to him and sharing stories about baseball.”

Rio does not remember much from his dad's days of covering the A's — Pedro was in the Bay Area during the “Bashbrothe­rs” era — but he does remember going to spring training games at Papago Sports Complex with his dad before the A's moved to Mesa.

“He didn't even cover the A's anymore and we'd walk around the stadium and everyone, every single person who worked there knew him – the security people, parking people, the clubhouse workers, everyone,” Rio said.

Rio sounds like his father and even looks like him a little bit too. Rio also wears a bracelet that once belonged to his father and grandfathe­r to honor them and carry Pedro with him.

“After his passing, I've worn it every single day,” Rio said. “It's just that little piece of him that goes everywhere I go.”

Sandi said there's more that connects them, though. The biggest similarity between her husband and son is their sense of perseveran­ce. She compared Pedro's start as a statistici­an in Miami to Rio's journey to the Red

Sox organizati­on.

“Rio didn't make his high school team his senior year, but he's continued to persevere and move forward,” she said.

Rio was drafted by the Red Sox in 2017 and has since posted a 3.27 career ERA and 241 strikeouts. Last season he pitched in 24 games where he recorded 41 strikeouts and 1.667 WHIP. This year he's looking to progress in the Red Sox organizati­on and thinks the World Baseball Classic could help.

“It can't hurt,” he said. “Regardless of what's going to happen with the Red Sox, for me, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

On Wednesday, it was the first time Rio stepped onto the field representi­ng his mother's home country Colombia. Sandra was born in Colombia and playing for the team was a dream come true for Rio.

“You look down and you see the lettering it's just a special moment, a special feeling.”

Colombia will face Mexico, Great Britain, Canada and the U.S. starting Saturday at Chase Field.

“It's going to be an awesome experience,” Rio said. “I already try imaging what it's gonna be like, but I know whatever I imagined won't be nearly as good as it's actually going to be.”

 ?? PHOTO BY JOHN MEDINA ?? Rio Gomez delivers a pitch during the A's spring training game against the Columbian national team at Hohokam Stadium on Wednesday.
PHOTO BY JOHN MEDINA Rio Gomez delivers a pitch during the A's spring training game against the Columbian national team at Hohokam Stadium on Wednesday.

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