Aug 25, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Chicago Cubs catcher Yan Gomes (15) enters the dugout before the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Even for a 33-year-old outfielder whose professional baseball career has included parts of six seasons in the big leagues, watching and learning from veterans can be especially beneficial.
And that doesn’t necessarily have to be just watching the in-game moments.
Mike Tauchman played in 108 games for the Cubs last season, and before many of those, he’d hit pregame with the first group. Among the rest of the hitters in that group would be the starting catcher, who’d go early so he could then begin the rest of his pregame routine.
In a lot of those instances, the starting catcher was Yan Gomes.
A 12-year veteran in the big leagues, Gomes has carved out a long career in part because of the little things that go into his work. Whether it’s behind or at the plate, anyone paying close attention can see how exactly he goes about staying sharp with those little things. And as Tauchman watched the 36-year-old backstop work last season, he picked up on something interesting.
“He would always take a round or two, and it’s like, I know exactly what he’s trying to do in this round,” Tauchman said of Gomes during a sit-down interview with CHGO at the Cubs Convention. “He’s trying to create a swing that can produce a middle-of-the-field line drive with not a lot of effort, and this is his game-winner swing. This is his ‘we need a hit’ [swing]. We need a single, not a home run or a walk or a strikeout. We need a single to win the game.
“He practices it every single day, and if you look at his late-game numbers last year, they were phenomenal.”
Tauchman wasn’t kidding. Though Gomes didn’t have spectacular overall numbers at the plate (he slashed .267/.315/.408/97 wRC+) last season, he always seemed to come through in big moments.
Tauchman recalled another big hit from Gomes late in the season in Atlanta.
Afterward, with a group of young hitters up on the Cubs at that point, Tauchman felt it necessary to go over to John Mallee — then Triple-A Iowa’s hitting coach, who will join manager Craig Counsell’s staff as an assistant hitting coach in 2024 — and say, “‘Make sure these young guys know that Yan just practices that.'”
“He practices that every single day, and that’s a guy who has a ring,” Tauchman added. “That’s a guy who’s played in multiple World Series. That’s a winning player who’s had a long, successful career, and he keeps producing because of his intentional practice.”
Gomes does have a Silver Slugger to his name, but at this point in his career, he’s not expected to be a premier bat in the lineup.
But it’s clear the work he puts in behind the scenes paid dividends in 2023, both for him and for the Cubs. He was brought in before the 2022 season in part because of his veteran presence, and to Tauchman, this was a clear case of Gomes displaying what it takes to have sustained success at this level.
In Tauchman’s mind, that’s the kind of example future Cubs should follow.
Check out the rest of CHGO’s interview with Mike Tauchman below to hear him talk hitting, the catch in St. Louis, controlling what he can control, the Bears’ No. 1 pick and more.
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