By Chris Whitaker, The Americus Times-Recorder
AMERICUS - Georgia Southwestern senior catcher Francisco Gomez was having a pretty good season, leading the Hurricanes at the plate with a .352 batting average.
But a small fracture to his ankle on April 6 in the series finale against UNC Pembroke ended his season, as he missed the final 13 games. He's been in rehab since then, and he hopes to return to the field this week.
Gomez will get to test that ankle this summer as he will be playing with USA Athletes International (USAAI) from July 17-25 in a baseball tournament in Spain.
"When I hurt my ankle, I was pretty upset, being my last year," said Gomez. "I'm pretty excited that I will get to play again. It will be a great experience, learning how they play there. It could be good exposure also. I think we're actually playing the national team from Spain."
According to its Web site, USAAI is "a non-profit organization dedicated to giving amateur athletes and coaches the opportunity to participate in international Olympic-style sporting events throughout the world, while also allowing them to broaden their educational and cultural knowledge of the world through the experience."
Players are selected "solely on recommendations from coaches, athletes and professionals."
"It is a huge honor and a great opportunity to represent my university in this important tournament," said Gomez. "This event is an excellent opportunity for athletes to foster international goodwill and friendship among nations."
Hurricanes coach Bryan McLain said he was contacted by one of the coaches about Gomez, Zach Whitman, Bud Long and Jared Allen. He gave the coach his evaluation of the four players and a couple of weeks later, McLain received the invitation packages.
Only Gomez, however, plans on making the trip.
"I think he's very deserving of the opportunity," said McLain. "He was having another good year for us, even a little better year than last year. Not to mention the fact he's a quality human being and person. He's going to represent us well in this event."
Gomez started all 33 games he appeared in, and he finished with five doubles and 21 RBI, and he made one error in 230 opportunities at his catcher position.
"He was leading our team in hitting and playing one of the toughest positions on the field, and he was excelling in all those different areas," said McLain. "He was a huge part of our team makeup, and it was definitely a tough time when we found out we were going to lose him for the rest of the season."
PHOTO BY: Chris Fenn