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Gomes spreads his love of tattoos

NEW YORK -- Boston outfielder Jonny Gomes has never been one to shy away from a challenge, so it's no surprise that he spent Friday morning trying to recruit Red Sox fans in one of the toughest places imaginable -- New York.

In town for a four-game series against the rival Yankees, Gomes -- known as a bit of a tattoo connoisseur -- stopped by the MLB Fan Cave, where he showed off some of his ink before giving some lucky fans some temporary Red Sox tattoos of their own.

Though he's typically on the other end of the process, Gomes himself applied the temporary Red Sox logo to approximately a dozen fans at a makeshift tattoo parlor set up inside the Fan Cave.

"Red Sox Nation pretty much travels anywhere, so I'm not surprised to see some people coming out here today, even being in New York and all," Gomes said. "I think I had about an 80-to-20 ratio of putting the tattoos on right versus wrong, but hopefully they left here happy, and I'm hoping to see even more fans come out to some of the games this weekend."

Given the unfavorable success ratio, Gomes doesn't envision quitting his "night job" anytime soon. However, he certainly didn't rule out adding to his own already vast collection of tattoos, each of which carries a special meaning, including his children's names on the inside of his right forearm and his wife's name farther up the same arm. Gomes' right arm also sports the quote "Tough times go away, tough people don't."

The words "In the Arena" are tattooed on the inside of his left forearm, part of a famous quote by former President Theodore Roosevelt.

One of the most in-depth pieces of artwork is on Gomes' lower right leg, where he sports a tribute to the U.S. armed forces. Among the images in the wide-ranging tattoo are the U.S. flag, the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, World War II aircraft, an Army helmet, military dog tags and a bald eagle. The tattoo also contains a tribute to Pat Tillman, who left his NFL career to enlist in the Army and lost his life while deployed in Afghanistan.

"Not a lot of people know this, but in 2001, I had two contracts on the table -- one from the Devil Rays and one to join the armed forces," Gomes said. "You never know where life is going to take you, and obviously I ended up joining the Devil Rays, but I think it's important to pay tribute to all the real heroes we have in this country and overseas."

Gomes' latest masterpiece, of course, is his tribute to Boston's championship run from a season ago. Taking up a large portion of his right torso, the tattoo features his bearded face, complete with a Red Sox cap atop his head, accompanied by a Boston Strong logo, a duck boat from the championship parade, the World Series trophy and another American flag.

"All of my tattoos have meaning. I haven't slipped up yet and gotten that unicorn or butterfly on my foot that has some crazy meaning like 'eternal happiness' or something," he said. "They all have meaning or represent one of my passions or pay tribute to someone or something. I just found myself documenting my life, kind of by accident with my first couple of tattoos, and I just went from there."

Though Gomes would never pressure anyone to get a tattoo, he believes there could still be a "few stragglers" in the clubhouse who may eventually join him in commemorating last year's title with some ink.

Gomes admitted that he started tossing around the idea of getting a potential World Series champions tattoo during the postseason run, but it was long before that he started thinking about winning a championship. Despite signing with the Red Sox in December 2012, fresh off their last-place finish in the American League East, he had high hopes before the season even began.

"It might sound crazy, but that's actually all I did think about when I joined this team," he said. "Not the tattoo part, obviously, but the part about winning the World Series with the Sox, I honestly did. Sometimes I'm a little too positive with things, but from the time I set one foot through the door at Spring Training in Fort Myers, [Fla.], that's all that was on my mind -- just winning a World Series with these guys."

The Red Sox are off to a bit of a slow start in their quest to repeat as champions, entering Friday night's game against the Yankees with a 4-6 record. Gomes denied that the team is struggling and insisted that the Red Sox once again plan to play deep into October.

"There's a different feel, as a whole, this year, and it's not just because we're the defending champs," he said. "The fan base is all the way back, we've still got a great group of guys, and we just keep getting stronger together. In Boston, with the Celtics, Bruins, Patriots and Red Sox, we know it's 'championship or bust' every single year. It's tough up there in Titletown, but we've got our mind set on getting back there again, that's for sure."

One thing that's less sure is the timetable for when Gomes plans on making his next trip to the tattoo parlor.

"It's hard to say," he said. "I guess it's just going to be the next time something awesome happens."

Paul Casella is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.

Boston Red Sox, Jonny Gomes