With surprise visit from his mom, Rio Gomez honors his late father with start for WooSox

WORCESTER — The stars continue to align for Rio Gomez.

After representing his mother’s heritage as a pitcher for Team Colombia in the World Baseball Classic in March, Gomez made his second career start in Triple-A for the Worcester Red Sox on Thursday.

Ironically enough, it was Wepas de Worcester Night at Polar Park as Gomez celebrated his late father’s Cuban heritage in the WooSox’ 5-4 win over with the Rochester Red Wings.

“It’s kind of cool how all those things (lined) up,” Gomez, 28, said. “In the spring, I got to represent my mom’s side in the WBC, and (Thursday I had) the other 50 percent with the Cuban side.”

Carrying on his father’s legacy

Rio Gomez’s father, Pedro, was the son of Cuban refugees and was born a few weeks after his parents arrived in the United States in 1962. After attending high school and college in Miami, Pedro wrote for various news publications for nearly 20 years before becoming a world-renowned sports journalist for ESPN from 2003 to 2021.

“What I've heard from baseball people (is) he was an extremely, extremely well-liked journalist,” WooSox manager Chad Tracy said, “and a great guy that was pretty beloved in the game of baseball.”

On Feb. 7, 2021, Pedro Gomez died from a heart attack at his home in Phoenix. He was 58.

Rio Gomez, one of Pedro and Sandi Gomez’s three children, pitched at the University of Arizona before being selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 36th round of the 2017 MLB Draft.

Through six years of ups and downs in the minor leagues, and the passing of his father, Gomez represented Colombia in the WBC on March 14. The left-hander pitched 1-1/3 innings of relief with two strikeouts, a walk and no runs allowed in a game against Canada, and fulfilled a premonition his father had six years prior.

“He’s gone through some dark times, and it’s nice to see him have success,” WooSox catcher Caleb Hamilton said.

Stars make their way out for Wepas de Worcester

In 1983, Frank Martin was 17 when he first met Pedro Gomez.

The two worked at a bank together in Florida and played on the bank’s softball team, Gomez at shortstop and Martin as first baseman.

“If you know baseball, those two better get along,” said Martin, the current UMass men’s basketball coach.

UMass men's basketball coach Frank Martin throws out the ceremonial first pitch at the WooSox game on June 8, 2023, at Polar Park.

From there, the pair developed a strong relationship as Gomez went on to toil in sports journalism, and Martin worked his way through the coaching ranks of college basketball. Martin was the coach at Kansas State for five years and then at South Carolina for 10 before taking over at UMass in 2022.

“We were just two young kids trying to figure out how to make it,” Martin said.

On Thursday, Martin threw out the ceremonial first pitch for Wepas de Worcester Night — a celebration of Cuban culture. On hand in Worcester to help commemorate were Cuban-born Red Sox legend Luis Tiant and Martin, who is the son of Cuban political exiles and the first American-born member of his family.

Making the night even more special for Martin was the fact that Rio Gomez received the start for the WooSox.

“To be here on Luis Tiant night, Rio, it’s ridiculous,” Martin said. “I’ve had chills all week thinking about it.”

Rio Gomez is all smiles after making a circus catch during the first inning of his start for the WooSox on June 8, 2023.

Rio Gomez experiences special night at Polar Park

Rio Gomez made his Triple-A debut against Louisville in a start for the WooSox on June 3. The 6-foot left-hander went 4-1/3 innings, allowing three hits, one run and three walks while striking out three. The 73 pitches are the most Gomez has thrown in a game during his pro career.

“It’s different from relieving,” Gomez said.

On Thursday, Gomez went 3-1/3 innings, giving up 5 hits, 2 runs and 2 walks while striking out four.

Afterward, Gomez met with his mother, who made a surprise visit from Phoenix to watch her son pitch in person for the first time since March ― on a night where Gomez also honored his father’s Cuban heritage.

Rio Gomez (right) and his mom, Sandi Gomez, pose for a picture after Rio made his second Triple-A start with the Worcester Red Sox on June 8, 2023.

“It was once again cosmically coincidental ... where now I land on this start day, and it's Cuban heritage night, and Frank Martin, Luis Tiant, and obviously my mom comes to surprise (me),” Gomez said. “So the whole thing is just hard to ask for anymore (or) to get any better than that.”

“The stars were aligned,” his mother said.

— Contact Tommy Cassell at Follow him on Twitter @tommycassell44. 

This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Rio Gomez makes start for WooSox with family heritage on his mind