Tom Gamboa was not in the dugout when the final out was recorded in the ninth inning at Richmond County Park in Staten Island on Monday night. His Brooklyn Cyclones team lost their season finale to the Yankees 5-2. Brooklyn goes home and restructures for next season in the Short-A League, and the Yankees move on to the NY Penn League postseason.
And for Gamboa, who was ejected in the fourth inning because of a disputed call down the first base line, he also goes home to Rancho Mirage, California. Content and with close to 40-years in baseball, the 68-year-old veteran of the game decided after three years in New York, managing the NY Mets affiliate, there was more to life besides baseball.
It wasn’t the way Gamboa wanted to go out. There was a loss, his team finished two games under .500 (37-39), and he put on a show, ejected for the third time in his tenure with Brooklyn.
It was vintage Earl Weaver and Lou Piniella. Moments after Gamboa was tossed and returned to the dugout the show commenced. Helmets, caps, and other equipment were thrown toward the base path along first by the sideline. Everything but the water cooler became a part of the game and the slim crowd got a show that was unexpected.
His players applauded the show. Gamboa was always a players manager.
“Never one like Weaver to put on a show,” said Gamboa in the visiting manager’s office moments after the game. “Only when I knew 100 percent that I was right. But when I knew I was right, there was no turning back on me”
Gamboa was ejected after telling plate umpire Jhonatan Biarreta, “you are in the wrong profession.” There were a few other ugly words exchanged. After the unexpected show, Gamboa retreated to his quarters, showered, dressed, and watched a few innings of the Dodgers-Diamondbacks game on a small TV monitor.
He quietly took a stroll and watched the remaining innings among a few fans scattered in right field as his team had a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning. Assistant coach Edgardo Alfonzo, the former big league Met took the lineup cards.
A ball was hit slowly up the first base line in that fourth inning. The Cyclones possibly have a big inning going and a ball is dropped, or supposedly dropped. The two umpires huddle and reverse the decision from safe to out, which promoted Gamboa to have his most animated and heated debate on the field in three years.
And it was a major dispute with the home plate umpire who was closest to the play.
“Zero tolerance for an umpire who lies,” Gamboa said. “If they tell you they made a mistake it’s one thing. He clearly saw the play. I told him, ‘I was closer to it than where you were.’ When the pitcher swiped him there was clearly daylight between the glove and the player.”
Gamboa was vocal about the play being correct and wasn’t leaving the field, but this is not the big leagues and the Penn league has no luxury of going to a video review. So, during the argument, the more experienced umpire admitted they got it wrong.
Who knows if the play would have made a difference in the outcome. In the end, Gamboa put on a good show and was more content to move on.
He will enjoy the grandchildren back in California, play his rounds of golf. Prior to leaving town next week, Gamboa will stick around and help the Israel team prepare for the World Baseball Qualifier Classic that takes place at MCU Park with Brazil, Great Britain and Pakistan in two weeks.
In three years under Gamboa, the Cyclones won their share of games. More so, there was progression with the various players who were drafted by the Mets scouting and developmental personnel, many who come and go.
Gamboa would like to see more position players drafted down the line, as he says, “The Mets are deep in pitching.”
“Seaver, Matlock, Koosman,” he said, “They have been noted for their pitching. Their pitching prospects have been tremendous,, This year we scored two runs or less and it happened again today. Two runs or less in 34 out of 76 games. Tonight we could have finished .500 which is a testament to the pitching and the defense.”
He added, the Cyclones in two of the last three years finished last in hitting, and that should give an indication about the Mets system and their focus to draft more in the hitting department.
But for now, Gamboa moves on to his next journey. If the right situation comes about, within his terms, perhaps there will be more baseball.
“My mom lived to 88, and I’m 68,’ he said. “When you realize that we are not going to live forever, I think like everybody, your priorities change with kids, grandkids. It’s just a shift in priorities. Excited to to other things on my list.”
He advocated Alfonzo to be his successor. The popular and former Met would be an ideal choice, but Gamboa has no say in the matter and the Mets hierarchy has been going with an older mode to help the youngsters, though Alfonzo worked hand in hand with Gamboa this season and lives in the community and could promote the product in Brooklyn.
Players came into his office and said thank you. Gamboa said, he would see them on the bus ride back to Brooklyn and wish them luck. It was the last time in a Cyclones uniform, but maybe not the last time we see him involved in baseball.
And with that, Gamboa said, the experience, “was fun.” He took his duffel bag with a Mets logo and went down the hall to the team bus. Good and knowledgeable guys in the game are hard to find.