No regrets: Gomes lives full life with bucket list

No regrets: Gomes lives full life with bucket list
June 12, 2013, 10:30 am
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BOSTON -- Jonny Gomes couldn't shake the nagging thought as he lay in his hospital bed after suffering a near-fatal heart attack. His life had almost ended on Christmas Eve 2002, just a month after his 22nd birthday, and a potential regret was weighing on his mind. Of all the things he had yet to accomplish, this one was at the forefront.
Gomes hadn't inked the tattoo he wanted.
"I'm in the hospital fighting for my life," he said. "I'm like, 'If I freakin' check out right now and I didn't get a tattoo that I wanted on my back, I'm going to be so mad.'"
Gomes recovered and vowed to make good on his to-do. That offseason he went to his tattoo parlor for what he originally intended to be the Japanese characters for brotherhood, artwork he estimated would have taken an hour. But after the scare he took it to another level, selecting a tattoo that covered his entire back with the symbols for brotherhood and health running vertically down his spine surrounded by ornate tribal work. He approximates spending 35 to 40 hours on the finished product.
So began Gomes' bucket list. Over the last 11 years the Boston Red Sox outfielder has made mental notes of his goals, accomplishing the ones he can in the offseason and planning ahead for those he would like to achieve in the future.
"I joke around saying when I had my heart attack and I checked out for a while, the man upstairs was like, 'You're not ready. Your resume is way too weak," Gomes said. "That's the picture I paint in my head and that's how I always look at it – ‘Your resume is way too weak to check out right now. Get back down there, do some awesome [stuff], and then I'll let you know when it's your time.'"
Gomes has been crossing items off his list ever since then. Two years ago he purchased a military-style monster truck painted in camouflage that he keeps in Arizona, where he resides in the offseason. It's not exactly an everyday vehicle, but Gomes doesn’t have everyday ambitions.  
"If I can, I truly try to reach my goals," he said. "I wanted a monster truck when I was a kid, so I'm going to get a monster truck. I don't care if I have it for a week or if I have it for ten years, I got it and I checked it off."
Currently atop Gomes' list is winning a World Series. As he sat in the dugout of Fenway Park, he explained baseball was never a career path he expected to follow professionally. Instead, he thought one of those military vehicles could have been in his future. His life prior to the heart attack shaped this item on the bucket list.
Gomes did not receive any scholarship offers to play college baseball and his family could not afford to pay for tuition. Instead, he played ball at a junior college and planned to enlist in the marines. Gomes, who says he “really wasn't that good at baseball, truly,” ended up reluctantly attending a Tampa Bay Devil Rays tryout. On that day, he says, “All moons aligned -- the best I've ever hit, the best I've ever thrown, the fastest I've ever been in one day.” The Devil Rays selected him in the 18th round of the 2001 Amateur Draft, but even then he wasn’t sold.
“I don't do things I suck at,” Gomes explained. “I'm not going to sign and say I play pro ball, go to the minor leagues and have my lunch handed to me. I'm not that kind of person.”
Ultimately, back pain caused by a car accident in high school in which Gomes’ best friend was killed led to his decision to forego the service. He didn’t think he could make it through boot camp -- he didn't even carry a backpack at the time -- and signed with the Devil Rays.
“I signed with (winning a World Series) in mind,” he said. “I signed with not trying to make it to the big leagues, not trying to make a bunch of money. When I signed I was like, ‘I'm going to do this to try to win a World Series.’”
Gomes played in the 2008 World Series as a member of the Rays, losing to the Philadelphia Phillies. While he still chases the goal of winning, he has put attending as many championship games as possible on his list. Gomes estimates he has been to six or seven World Series as an onlooker. He often gets questioned as to why he is at the ballpark, and his answer is simple.
“I say, ‘About the same thing you are -- I'm watching the game, I'm a fan,’” he said. “(I am asked,) 'Who do you want to win?' ‘I don't care. I'm not in it. I've got friends on both sides, just want a good game.’ It sounds cliché but I love this game, I love playing it and I love watching it, so that's why I go.”
Outside of baseball, Gomes would like to attend and participate in other (and more extreme) sporting events. He is intrigued by the passion of soccer and would like to take in a FIFA World Cup championship game – “I just think it's complete mayhem in sports, which I love,” he said. Instead of sitting in the stands, he would like to also kite surf and run with the bulls in Spain.
“It’d be cool to take my wife over there and she could watch me (run with the bulls),” he said. “I think it's pretty interesting and would be fun, a little adrenaline rush.”
Gomes, whose tattoos tell the story of his life, would like the opportunity to ink one. His dream customer? The man who has scrawled artwork all over his body.
“I would tattoo my tattoo artist to give him the pain that he gives me,” Gomes laughed. “I think the ability to give someone something for life is pretty cool. I can't even draw a stick figure with a pen so it definitely would be a laugher of a tattoo.”
When it comes to giving back, there is one bucket list item Gomes takes to heart. The man who envisioned a life in the armed services would like to express his appreciation for those carrying out that career path.
“I would like to go visit the troops if they're still there,” he said. “I truly wish that wasn't an option and they weren't over there, but I would like to do that. I don't think there's anything I could say, to tell you the truth. I think they've heard it all. I would just like to go over there to let them know they're appreciated and not with a postcard – having boots on the ground with them.”
At 32 years old, Gomes doesn’t see an end of his bucket list. He predicts 40 years from now it will be just as long, with accomplished items replaced by new goals, some that may not even be invented yet. One longstanding task he looks to achieve every day will still remain -- providing the best life possible for his wife and three children.
“Hopefully I'll be able to say the kids are rockin' and rollin', I'll be a cool-ass grandpa and still running around with my wife doing cool [stuff],” he said.
11 years ago Gomes lay in a hospital bed weighed down by regret. Now he maximizes each day so he never has that feeling again.
“We're on this freakin’ rock to live life every single day to the fullest, and it just made me realize tomorrow is not a guarantee. It’s not,” he said. “You cannot bet on tomorrow, especially in this day and age. Obviously without being ridiculous, if it's debatable, I'm doing it.”