Gomes shares special bond with Brady's Bunch
'Throwback' outfielder, young boy make instant connection
BOSTON -- When the throwback ballplayer met the throwback kid, it changed both of their lives forever.
To appreciate the story, you need to know how it started.
In the winter prior to the 2012 season, Jonny Gomes was working out at Athletes Performance Institute in Scottsdale, Ariz., ramping up to join the Oakland Athletics.
It was there that he had a chance meeting with young Brady Wein, who was 3 years old at the time.
In his life as a public figure, Gomes meets people all the time. So how was he supposed to know that day the impact the encounter with Brady would have on him?
"I thought he was real young, but he grabbed a lacrosse stick and we were playing lacrosse and then we had to go down to the batting cage and then he wanted to hit," said Gomes. "Then he wanted to throw to me. Then he wanted to play hockey. This kid was just so excited to be outside. He was so excited to be in the sun. It's kind of different these days seeing that.
"All these kids with their iPhones, iPads, video games and Xboxes, it was just so cool. He was 3 years old and he was already like a throwback. I played with him for a long time and I remember right at the end, I was talking to his dad and he was also a super-cool guy, from Boston, but I didn't play for Boston [at the time]."
One thing Gomes remembers is that Mike Wein, Brady's father, thanked him for playing with his son.
"I really didn't get it," said Gomes. "Why would he thank me for playing with him?"
As Gomes, a father himself, chatted up Brady's dad a little more, he learned the story.
Brady Wein was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia at 3 months old.
"We got a bone marrow transplant," said Mike Wein. "Four months later, the stuff came back, he got another transplant. He had gotten two transplants before he was 2 and then it came back a third time and he got full-body radiation in his skin. Our family came to say good-bye to him two months before he was 2."
That good-bye, fortunately for everyone involved, was premature. Brady Wein is 5 years old and hopes to keep defying the odds while cancer treatment keeps improving.
"We travel back and forth to New York every six weeks for him to get a cell transfusion and that's why we moved back to Massachusetts [back in August]," said Mike Wein.
It's a good thing that Mike Wein, a native of Framingham, Mass., had relocated to Arizona a few years back. Otherwise, he likely never would have met Gomes at API. Wein has a relative who works at the state-of-the art facility, which is why he would continually go there, and bring Brady along for the ride.
"Unbelievable, this kid's story," said Gomes. "His energy and his life and just the way he was outside, it was so contagious that it hit me right away that he is a special little kid."
The relationship with Gomes only strengthened in that initial winter, and Brady Wein was originally an Oakland Athletics fan. He even visited Gomes at Fenway during the 2012 season, when the A's were in town.
But when Gomes signed with the Red Sox, Brady Wein became an avid fan of the team his dad has rooted for his whole life.
This summer, Brady made multiple trips to Fenway Park, where he played wiffle ball on the field and hung around with Gomes and several of his teammates.
Jon Lester, Boston's star lefty who was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, gave Brady a special gift in the summer of 2013. In the emotional first game back after the Boston Marathon bombings, the Red Sox wore specially-designed home jerseys that said "Boston" on the front.
Lester gave his to Brady.
"He signed it to Brady and walked down to the batting cage where we were and he gave it to him," said Gomes. "Brady's reaction almost made it like a tear-jerker, emotional moment because Brady at 5 years old knew how important that was to receive a gift from Jon Lester. Jon Lester hands him this game-worn, Boston Strong jersey to Brady, and you might see another kid who would be like, 'No, I want candy.' Or, 'That jersey's not going to fit me.' He was just so touched that Jon Lester gave him that jersey. There were probably about 10 people down in the batting cage at the time, everyone about fell down from Brady's reaction."
During the 2013 season, any visitor to the Red Sox's clubhouse would see countless players wearing gym shorts that had the color and design of the American flag.
Gomes got those shorts from Mike Wein. They are the official team shorts of Brady's Bunch, a youth lacrosse team created by Mike Wein in part to help promote awareness and support for Brady.
But the program goes even deeper than that. Mike Wein, along with Tom Demaio, are on a mission to have kids bond over lacrosse, but also realize how precious life is.
"There's not a kid in America when a coach tells him to get on the end line, that he's excited to run a wind sprint," said Mike Wein. "But they love to play six-on-six and scrimmage, correct? And I try to tell him this: 'What about the kid who went to bed with two legs and woke up with one leg? Because I've seen that happen. Do you think that kid would want to run a wind sprint?' Run every wind sprint like it's your last because someday it's going to be your last one, you just don't know when."
Aside from the shorts, Gomes also wears a bracelet in honor of Brady Wein.
"I just can't believe that guy Jonny Gomes," said Mike Wein. "If my son could grow up to be a little bit like Jonny Gomes, that would be magical."
Because Gomes also has had some health issues in his life -- including a heart attack in Christmas of 2002 -- perhaps it gives him a greater appreciation for the courage his young friend has.
"From my adversity, I can't hold a candle to him," said Gomes. "I had a measly little heart attack. You talk about the things that he's gone through in his childhood. We kind of live for the same thing. It's for the moment. We definitely put everything into perspective. We feed off each other's energy."
The connection between Jonny Gomes and Brady Wein created perhaps its most compelling chapter during Game 4 of the World Series.
Before the sixth inning started in St. Louis, there was a ceremony for "Stand Up To Cancer".
Gomes held two "I Stand Up For" signs from Boston's dugout, one for Bob Leslie, his high-school coach who died from cancer, and the other one, which simply said "Brady's Bunch".
"I've been around a lot of pro athletes," said Mike Wein, who went to Florida State University. "You never really know how they feel toward you. I used to say to people, 'I'm friends with Jonny Gomes.' And they're like, 'You are?' And I'd follow it up with, 'I don't know if I'm [truly] friends with him', you know what I mean? How can you describe if you are friends with a pro athlete? You don't know. But when he came out with the sign, that was it. I knew."
And as his phone blew up with text messages from his friends, Mike Wein didn't have to watch the upcoming at-bat by Gomes to know what was going to happen.
"We all know what's going to happen," Wein said. "And then he goes deep. You maybe didn't know it was going to happen. Brady's Bunch knew what was going to happen. It was impossible for it not to happen."
The three-run homer Gomes hit that night to snap a 1-1 tie was perhaps the biggest hit by the Red Sox in the 2013 World Series. They tied the Fall Classic that night and went on to win Games 5 and 6 also.
At some point in the near future, Gomes looks forward to showing his World Series ring to Brady Wein.
"People think he's just like a short 10-year-old," said Gomes. "He's not shy. He's a little bit like me, to where he just literally lives every day like it's his last. Spilling your milk or dropping your food is not going to ruin your day. Just, on to the next. Looking at life for what the big picture is, and not the little picture. Like I said, he's just -- they call me a throwback ballplayer. He's a throwback kid."