Fresno Pacific has added another battler to its baseball roster, officially "signing" 11-year-old Emilio Gomez to the team during a Saturday ceremony.
Gomez, who has been battling lymphoma for the past year, was linked up to the Sunbirds through Team IMPACT, which works to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening or other chronic illnesses.
For Gomez, it was a delightful morning that included him signing a special letter-of-intent — just like any other prized recruit — and throwing out the first pitch.
Gomez said he always wanted to be a baseball player and is happy to have his wish fulfilled by joining the Sunbirds.
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Fresno Pacific hosted Chico State in a doubleheader, with Gomez wearing a No. 46 jersey while sitting in the dugout.
The Sunbirds may have a new good-luck charm. They won the opener 3-2 on McKay France's walk-off single in the 14th inning, then nearly beat the NCAA's Division II sixth-ranked team again before falling 6-5 in 10 innings in game 2.
But the day, regardless of the on-field results, belonged to Gomez.
"We couldn't be more excited about it," Sunbirds coach Oscar Hirschkorn said. "Him joining the team as a good kid and facing such adversity … and we have a great group of guys on this year's team and to see Emilio interact with our team and our team interacting with Emilio, it's a special thing to watch."
Gomez is in the sixth grade at Mccardle Elementary. He was diagnosed last year with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of cancer, and is being treated at Valley Children's Hospital.
The youngster chose jersey No. 46 to bring awareness to the fact that each day, 46 children nationally are diagnosed with cancer.
Gomez, who also enjoys video games and going to the movies and is an Oakland Raiders and World Wrestling Entertainment fan, said he would like to attend WrestleMania 31 on March 29 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara — in part to see the new stadium.
"He's excited," Emilio's father, Jaime, said. "He's been talking about going for a few months now and hopefully we're able to make it this year."
Gomez also has support from his mother, Tracy, and three siblings, Alicia, Eric and Ayva.
The Sunbirds used a five-run fifth — highlighted by Michael Tittle’s two-run single — to take a 5-3 lead in Saturday's second game, but a throwing error in the sixth let in the tying run and the Wildcats won 6-5 on Peter Miller’s RBI single in the 10th.
Chico State’s winning rally was set up by a walk, stolen base and throwing error.
Fresno Pacific leaned on 6⅔ scoreless innings of relief from its bullpen in the opener, including three apiece from Tanner Irwin and Kyle Rasmussen (2-1).
The Sunbirds (6-2) took 2 of 3 in the series, playing a total of 34 innings in two days, while working without their top offensive threat, center fielder Baron Bower, who sat out after an outfield collision last weekend.