Remembering Pedro Gomez

I was incredibly saddened to learn that Pedro Gomez passed away on Sunday.

I’ve been reading the social media reaction to Pedro’s death and can relate to many of them, thanks to my brief but meaningful interaction with him.

Fifteen years ago, I started a podcast about my hometown Detroit Tigers. I had no idea what I was doing, which was painfully obvious in early episodes, but the podcast allowed me to scratch the itch of somehow, someway being in broadcasting.

Not long after I launched it, I mentioned to my friend Len that I was doing a podcast and, as I recall it, he said he’d talk to his friend Pedro Gomez about appearing on the show.

Of course I was excited and couldn’t wait to hear if he’d be willing to come on as my first big-name guest. I’d understand if he passed. Back then, very few people knew what a podcast was. But, a couple of days later, Len sent me Pedro’s email address. After a few scheduling back-and-forths, we had it on our calendars: August 1, 2006.

When I was preparing my questions, I figured I’d get his thoughts on that year’s Tigers team — the eventual American League Champions — who were playing well after decades of misery. Maybe, I hoped, he’d have a few things to say about the rookies, Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya, or an anecdote about Jim Leyland.

Imagine my surprise and delight when he began talking about his love for the 1968 Tigers team.

I had a sense, based on how Pedro seemed on ESPN, that he’d be a great guest; he was, and then some. He could not have been more friendly, accommodating and engaged in a conversation that, at that point, might have reached 600 listeners.

Later that same season, I was fortunate to attend Game 4 of the American League Championship Series in Detroit. My friend, Steve, and I got to the ballpark early and were walking around behind the Tigers dugout near the on-deck circle. Looking at the field, close to the wall, was Pedro, talking with the Tigers TV announcer Mario Impemba, who had also appeared on the podcast for the first time that summer.

I walked down the steps to where I was close enough to get his attention and yelled “Hey, Pedro!” He looked up at me and I said I was Len’s friend and he yelled “No way!”, and waved me down toward the field. I could see him explaining to Mario who I was then nd Mario turned and said, “Mike?!” I couldn’t believe these two men, whose work I so enjoyed and respected, both, at least momentarily, knew who I was.

When I got close to the field the security guard stopped be from getting any closer than the fifth row. Pedro and Mario both told the guard it was okay, but my opportunity for a handshake and in-person hello was thwarted.

It didn’t matter. Just knowing that Pedro remembered me at all was a thrill (Mario too, of course.)

So, I could relate when reading the memories of Pedro’s ESPN colleagues, especially those who talked about his mentorship and generosity.

I talked to him only for a half-hour, but during those 30 minutes, he made me feel like there was no place he’d have rather been.

Thanks, Pedro.