The first time Carlos Gomez returned to Milwaukee following his trade to the Houston Astros, he said when the time came for him to retire, he wanted to do so in a Brewers uniform.
Gomez just that Friday night, donning his familiar No. 27 to sign his retirement papers during a ceremony to mark his addition to the team’s Wall of Honor outside American Family Field.
Starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo and reliever Francisco Rodriguez were honored alongside Gomez.
“This was supposed to happen a year ago,” said Gomez, who batted .267/.325/.452 with 87 home runs, 288 RBIs and a .777 OPS in 697 games for the Brewers from 2010 until his trade at the deadline in 2015. “This is the time to retire and be done in the field but I’m always going to be a baseball player in my heart.”
Gomez was a 16-year-old in the Dominican Republic when the New York Mets signed him as an international free agent in 2002. Five years later, he made his major league debut but was traded to Minnesota that winter, the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal that sent pitcher Johann Santana to New York.
After two seasons with the Twins, he was sent to Milwaukee in exchange for shortstop J.J. Hardy and had a memorable debut, notching four hits and a home run in an Opening Day loss to the Colorado Rockies.
Just 24 at the time, Gomez was still a raw talent who could be maddening at times but things began to click for him when the Brewers replaced manager Ken Macha with Ron Roenicke in 2011.
Gomez became emotional when he thanked Roenicke, on-hand for the ceremony, for his support.
“Thank you so much because you’re the one to tell me, ‘You’re going to be the star and you’re going to take this team,’ and you gave me the opportunity to be who I am,” Gomez told his former manager.
The acquisition of outfielder Nyjer Morgan at the end of spring training moved Gomez into a bench role, often appearing as a late-inning defensive replacement, as the Brewers went on to win their first division title since 1982.
Current manager Craig Counsell played alongside Gomez for two seasons and managed him for part of the 2015 season.
“There was a three-week stretch there at the end of the season when Carlos changed,” Counsell said. “It’s when the light bulb went on for him. It happened right at the end of 2011. We saw it happening. He started to play a little more at the end and he figured it out, he understood what he was doing offensively a little better and it was kind of off to the races the next couple of years.
“He was a great player the next couple of years.”
Gomez’s most memorable moment with the Brewers came in Game 5 of the NLDS that season when he scored the winning run on Morgan’s 10th-inning walk-off single, giving Milwaukee its first victory in a postseason series since the 1982 American League Championship Series.
That game also included six innings of one-run ball from Gallardo and a scoreless inning of relief from Rodriguez.
Gallardo, Milwaukee’s second-round pick in the 2004 MLB draft, went 89-64 with a 3.69 ERA in 214 appearances (211 starts) over eight seasons with the Brewers and still holds the franchise record with 1,226 strikeouts.
He was traded to Texas ahead of the 2015 season and after stints with the Rangers, Orioles, Mariners and Reds, returned to Texas in 2018. He signed a minor league deal with the Brewers ahead of spring training in 2019 before deciding to retire.
“I’ve got two little girls now and walking in they’re asking all kinds of questions about Milwaukee,” Gallardo said. “They have no idea. It was 10 years. We had some great teams when we were here.”
Rodriguez came to Milwaukee in a trade from the Mets during the All-Star Game in 2011 and went on to post a 1.86 ERA in 31 appearances while filling the set-up role ahead of closer John Axford.
He spent parts of five seasons with the Brewers, posting a 2.91 ERA with 95 saves before he was traded to Detroit in David Stearns’ first offseason as general manager.
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