As the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Nacional season has rolled along it has become crystal clear that Tren del Norte de Real Estelí are the cream of the crop. They came out of the gate hot, and they’ve never really let up. As I type this the Tren are in the middle of a 10-game winning streak that has set their season mark at 20 wins and 4 losses. The kicker is, this is Tren del Norte’s first season in the LBPN. They are an expansion team who really wasn’t expected to dominate as they have. Then again, maybe we should have expected a team that went out and got some of the best players available to be better than just expansion level?
One of those players is second baseman, Héctor Gómez. After a disappointing stretch in Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana and the Atlantic League, he turned to Nicaragua’s shores for a decent payday and a chance to prove that he still had something left in the tank after all. From the very first game of the season, it was clear that Gómez would be the driving force behind a team that wanted to prove they could hang with the best the LBPN had to offer. Through the first 10 games of the season, Tren slugged their way to victories and a lot of that was behind Gómez’s powerful middle of the order bat.
As the season sits right now Gómez is slashing .425/.456/.663 in 87 plate appearances. The first thing that should stand out to anyone reading this is that there’s only a .31 gap between his Batting Average and On-Base Percentage. Gómez’s approach has been simple: see the ball, hit the ball. He’s not showing much patience at the plate, only 7 walks, but he hasn’t needed to as he’s ripping line drives left and right in nearly every at-bat. The Dominican Republic native has displayed ample power: 10 doubles and 4 home runs. He’s been the slugger that Tren del Norte hoped they were signing and then some.
Beyond his raw stats, Gómez has come up big for Tren when they needed him the most. In a recent game against Bóer he was an integral part of Tren rallying in the 8th, 9th, 10th, and finally 12th innings in a crazy back and forth game. A surging Leones de León squad showed up at Estadio de Beisbol Rufo Marín recently with ambitions of putting Tren in their place and proving to everyone that they were still the dominant force in the LBPN. For the first game of the series, the Leones sent their newly acquired foreign ace to the mound. While he still hasn’t looked like himself yet this season, Lázaro Blanco is still a formidable test for any batter. Don’t tell that to Gómez who started two different big innings against Blanco and let the Leones know they were not to be trifled with as they swept the reigning champs.
Gómez’s defense at second base has been adequate, but he’s not on the team for his defensive value. Tren del Norte was built to score a lot of runs and Gómez is the main reason they do just that. There’s still time left in the LBPN season, but right now Gómez is looking every bit the Most Valuable Player of the league. He’s poised to push Tren through the playoffs where they will have to score a lot of runs to make up for their inconsistent pitching to win the title. One thing is certain, if Gómez keeps hitting at a .425 clip there’s no reason he shouldn’t return home with some personal and team hardware.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – La Prensa