Newspaper article International New York Times

First Brazilian in Majors Hopes He Is a Trailblazer

Newspaper article International New York Times

First Brazilian in Majors Hopes He Is a Trailblazer

Article excerpt

Catcher Yan Gomes, the major leagues' first Brazilian player, earned the Cleveland Indians' starting job last season and hopes to spread the sport in his native country.

The Cleveland Indians gathered around the television in their clubhouse Friday, most pleading for the United States men's hockey team to come back against Canada at the Olympics. Only John Axford, the reliever from Ontario whose maple-leaf sweater hung proudly in his locker, grinned as the clock ran out.

Yan Gomes, Cleveland's Brazilian catcher, enjoyed the spectacle. Another is coming this summer, when his native country hosts the World Cup.

"Like Canadians watching hockey, that's what we live for," Gomes said. "That's the big time there."

In a country of nearly 200 million people, many with a deep passion for soccer, Gomes stands out as the first Brazilian major leaguer. He made his debut in 2012 with the Toronto Blue Jays and earned the starting catching job for Cleveland last season. Another Brazilian, Andre Rienzo, made 10 starts for the Chicago White Sox as a rookie last season.

Gomes, 26, moved to Miami from Mogi das Cruzes, in Sao Paulo, when he was 12. By then, he had already been playing baseball for six or seven years, introduced to it by a coach his father knew.

"It was kind of weird going to school and telling people that I played baseball," he said. "They had no idea what it was. But I fell in love with the game at a young age."

Gomes was so willing and eager that he told coaches he would play anywhere on the field. But in his final year of college, at Barry University in Florida, he made sure to catch in the games against Division I programs. He figured more scouts would be there, and catchers are always in demand.

Toronto took him in the 10th round, in 2009, and while other catchers blocked his path, he impressed a Blue Jays scout, the former catcher Kevin Cash, with his performance at spring training.

"He was all about playing third, playing first, catching, whatever he could," Cash said. "He just volunteered to do everything, and he always did something positive to impact the game."

When Cash joined the staff of the Indians' new manager, Terry Francona, after the 2012 season, he raved about Gomes's makeup. …

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