Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
Taylor Gomes brings a baseball edge to the Terra Nova softball diamond.
Last season, when the San Francisco Giants ran their “Little Busters” advertising campaign starring Buster Posey and his legions of young fans, they really should have signed up Terra Nova softball catcher Taylor Gomes for a co-starring role.
Gomes is a gritty, nose-to-the-grindstone talent behind the plate. And the reason she takes the game so seriously, no doubt, is she is cut from a baseball background.
Terra Nova head coach Donna Tolero raves about her young catcher. Still a sophomore who is relatively new to the softball ranks, Gomes may be rough around the edges when it comes to the graces of the game. But after spending two years behind the plate as a varsity starter — including a first-team All-Ocean Division honor this year — she has made great strides toward becoming the Tigers’ franchise player.
“It’s that intensity and heart and drive that makes her a better player,” Tolero said.
While the Tigers won’t be appearing in the Central Coast Section playoffs this season, it isn’t for lack of determination by Gomes. Sacrificing her body all season long at plays at the plate, the sophomore almost punctuated Terra Nova’s season with such a play.
With Terra Nova just one out away from a playoff berth while clinging to a 1-0 lead over Mills in the seventh inning, the Vikings attempted to tie it on a bang-bang play at the plate. Like she did time and time again this season, though, Gomes attempted to block the plate and made a textbook tag. The call went Mills’ way as the runner was called safe. The Vikings went on to win the game 2-1 and with the victory earned the lone CCS berth from the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division.
“It really could have gone either way, but they called her safe,” Tolero said.
Offsetting Tolero’s diplomatic reaction was that of Gomes, who had a much more blunt description of the play that could have ended the regular season and propelled Terra Nova to the playoffs.
“She was out,” Gomes said. “Mills pretty much got four outs in that inning.”
Gomes wasn’t attempting to be critical. She’s just matter-of-fact — old-school. The reason is simple. She is a baseball player trapped in a softball player’s body.
Having grown up in the baseball town of Pacifica, Gomes got her start as a baseball player as a 4-year-old when her parents signed her up for tee-ball. She quickly fell in love with the sport. While she was still in coach-pitch little league, she started catching. As she got older though, she started getting grief from many of the boys with whom she grew up playing.
“By that time, the boys were starting to become boys and they didn’t like the fact that I was on the team,” Gomes said. “A lot of the times when we’d play on the other side of town in American Little League, the boys would try to throw at my head and stuff.”
So, Gomes opted out of her Pacifica league to play in an adult women’s baseball league. According to Gomes, she was invited to play with the San Francisco Angels. And while she enjoyed playing in the league of their own, her teammates soon encouraged her to give softball a try.
“I think it helped shape me as who I am as a softball player, because the rule in baseball is there’s no crying in baseball,” Gomes said.
Gomes finally listened to her Angels teammates and tried out for Tolero’s travel team, the Pacifica Fusion. It was with the Fusion the nucleus of the current Terra Nova squad started, with Gomes joining the likes of Gabby Spencer-Crook and sisters McKenna and Maia Borovina.
“It just felt nice because a lot of the girls were already together,” Gomes said. “We could do girl things and all play softball together and have a really nice time. And I made a lot of good friends who I’m still playing with today.”
While the renaissance of Terra Nova softball features plenty of talent, no one in the mix owns a better game face than Gomes. And the sophomore was involved in her fair share of plays at the plate this season. May 1 against Jefferson, Gomes got run over and took a pretty severe blow to the head.
“I don’t even know if I had a concussion or not,” Gomes said. “But it turned out OK. I got up and I finished the game. And we won. So, it all worked out.”
Gomes didn’t mention the possibility of a concussion in the dugout though. The reason was simple. Terra Nova was on the verge of a rivalry game.
“I didn’t say anything,” Gomes said. “We were playing Half Moon Bay the next day. I had to be there that game.”
Gomes is a gamer through and through, as evidenced by the relationship she forged with 7-year-old Annika Johnson this season. Johnson is one of two Pacifica girls who were diagnosed with cancer late last year. The Pacifica baseball community invested in fundraisers for the two girls, the other being 8-year-old Bella Hung.
Gomes bonded with Johnson at a February fundraiser, and even invited the young cancer patient to throw out the first pitch at Terra Nova’s May 12 game against South City.
“She’s just a little kid. I’m so proud of her. She’s so strong too. She was a trooper that day,” Gomes said. “She was so full of life. It was so good to see her doing well and loving life and just living it to the fullest even with the situation she was dealt.”
While Gomes may be a baseball player at heart, she is certainly making her way on the softball diamond. It’s just that she’s bringing her baseball virtues with her.
“To this day I miss baseball, but I do love softball,” Gomes said.