A clean-shaven Jonny Gomes on commemorating a championship, desperation for a repeat

February 18, 2014 - 10:57 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jonny Gomes offered several of the defining images of the Red Sox' championship run in 2013. The outfielder -- in the first year of his two-year, $10 million contract -- spearheaded the team's signature beard movement. He introduced the dropkicked helmet into the physical lexicon of walkoff celebrations. He wore the military helmets that became a staple of Red Sox clinching celebrations. And, perhaps most significantly, he helped design the "Boston Strong 617" jersey that hung in the Red Sox dugout in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, while also helping to place the World Series trophy at the Marathon finish line during the Duck Boat parade in November. "None of it was fake. None of it was to get Sox Nation on my side and Sox Nation to love me," said Gomes. "I'€™ve always rallied around my teammates as family and rallied around my community as if it was my hometown. To be able to drop the World Series trophy down within feet of the bomb, I don'€™t think when the story was written, that was even in there. And to have the opportunity from the Red Sox to have the World Series trophy on my duck boat, for me to bring it up, was pretty humbling, and a tear-jerker at the same time right there, listening to God Bless America. All those happy thoughts definitely doesn'€™t erase the tragedy that happened when lives were lost. Just quick little momentum starter and eraser if you will.'€ The opportunity to be a part of that was a signature life experience for Gomes. And so, he elected to get a tattoo to reflect the entirety of that remarkable campaign and the indelible mark that it left on him. "What single adjective could describe last year?" wondered Gomes, who arrived in Red Sox camp on Tuesday. "Worst to first, the ring, first year with the Sox, Boston strong, the beards, all that. Probably make a heck of a T-shirt or bumper sticker, but I'm the guy who gets the tattoo. The way my life's been mapped out, some of the adversity I've dealt with, on and off, health, all this stuff, I've just kind of found myself documenting my life through my tattoos all the way through my kids' names through my wedding date, my passion and tribute to the military, when my best friend passed away. I catch grief here and there about having a big league logo on my body, but at the same time, I wouldn't give anyone grief if they had an Arizona Diamondbacks World Series ring in our clubhouse and they wore it all the time. I'm happy with it. It's cool. It's not on my neck. No one has to see it." Of course, while the tattoo is gone, another image was in plain view and striking. Gomes is now clean-shaven, looking, in the words of teammate Shane Victorino, like he's in high school. That might be an exaggeration, but still, the decision to move on from the beard represented, in a metaphorical sense, a departure from last season. That being the case, Gomes was asked, was the decision to do so difficult? "Not really, no," said Gomes. "It'€™s a friggin beard. No one died. We'€™re going to be alright." Despite the pride taken in a considerable accomplishment last year, Gomes suggested that the Sox will not be complacent. If anything, he said that the motivation has only been increased by the 2013 triumph, with the possibility of becoming the first team to repeat since the 1998-2000 Yankees offering plenty of fuel. "That's why I signed up for this game, when I chose to sign a professional contract in 2001, was to win a World Series. That being said, our goal was met, our goal was conquered. I guess I was extremely hungry to win a World Series title. Once you take a bite of it, that's definitely what it's all about. My hunger turned to starvation now. I'm going to do what I can to start collecting them," said Gomes. "It's been a while since someone's gone back-to-back, for sure. We're obviously aware of that," he added. "We're also aware that no one's gone worst-to-first and won a ring [since the 1991 Twins]. We accomplished that. I think this group of guys, from the players to the coaching staff to up above, is not willing and not wanting to sit on this title. It's cool right now. There are championship shirts and hats and whatnot. But I tell you what -- once that first pitch of the season starts, it's pretty much go right into the archives. That's old news coming up pretty soon."