The Baltimore Sun

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. -- Chris Gomez, who will enter his third season as the Orioles' utility man, hit .341 last season (45-for-132) with two home runs and 17 RBIs. The 35-year-old California native broke into the major leagues in 1993 with the Detroit Tigers and has played with six teams. He plays all four infield positions for the Orioles.

You were named the Tigers' Rookie of the Year in consecutive seasons. How does that happen? -- I was one of two or three rookies, so ... if you do anything, you win it. All my categories that would have made me not a rookie the next year, I was just under. I was still considered a rookie. It's a big-time accomplishment. I think it puts me on a pedestal.

What's the hardest part of being a utility man? -- I don't see anything difficult about it, really. I think it is a mentality. Once you accept it and you are prepared that you may not play for a week and then you are going to have to play, it's a lot easier than playing every day. You just have to have that mentality that you can do it.

You went to the same elementary school as rapper Snoop Dogg. What do you remember about him? -- That's right, we were in the same class in fourth and fifth grade. I remember crossing him over on the playground basketball court, dropping some threes on him. We were friends in the fourth and fifth grade, just like any other kids.

Why do teammates call you "Fresh Hands"? -- That's [Kevin] Millar. It's because [of] my lack of playing time in certain stretches last year. Millar would say that I have fresh hands because I wasn't getting a whole lot of PT.

You collect sports memorabilia. What is your favorite possession? -- My two-time Rookie of the Year Tigers jersey. No, I'm kidding. I'd probably have to say my autographed Magic Johnson jersey.

You are a big Lakers fan. Did they do the right thing by keeping Kobe Bryant and trading Shaquille O'Neal? -- That's a silly question. Obviously, you wish that they had them both. But if the Lakers had Shaq, they are not going anywhere without Kobe. It's the same with Kobe with no Shaq. But with Kobe, at least you have a future.

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