Tim Cossins, the Orioles’ major league field coordinator and catching instructor, was at his desk last season, getting ready to leave when a unsuspecting package arrived.

Something in him decided to stay and open it. The contents left him speechless.

Inside, he found two gloves and a Wonderboy T-shirt from the movie “The Natural.” The first glove was one that his father, who died when he was 58, had given him. Cossins then gifted it to Sam Gomes, his coach and mentor at Santa Rosa Junior College, as a thank you when Cossins moved on to play for Oklahoma University.

The second glove was the one Cossins used in the College World Series, which he also gave to Gomes as another token of his appreciation. Gomes used both gloves in his men’s league, re-stringing them to keep up with the wear and tear.

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Cossins hadn’t seen either glove in close to 30 years. But here they were, on his desk in Baltimore, a little over a year after Gomes died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“It was super emotional, it was a full circle thing,” Cossins said. “To have it show up at my desk, how impactful it was for me, it was super special. These gloves have come back to me.”

The gloves Tim Cossins received during the 2023 season. (Courtesy of Tim Cossins)

On Sunday, as MLB commemorates Lou Gehrig Day to honor the Yankee legend and raise awareness about ALS, Cossins and manager Brandon Hyde, who was also coached by Gomes, will be in the dugout with heavy hearts. Neither knew much about the deadly disease before Gomes was diagnosed with it in 2021. Now, they carry the grief of watching Gomes’ slow and painful death with them.

ALS is a fatal motor neuron disease that causes the body to slowly break down over time until the person loses the ability to walk, talk, eat and breathe. There is no cure, and the life expectancy after diagnosis is only two to five years. The disease affects 30,000 people in the U.S. each year, according to the ALS Association.

“One moment a dear friend and I were playing catch and he was very health-conscious and very physical, and less than a calendar year later he was gone. It’s a terrifying progression through the disease,” Cossins said. “When it hits you, you are impacted for the rest of your life. You’ll never forget it and never not think about it.”

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By day, Gomes worked at Pepsi. By night, he molded the next generation of catchers at Santa Rosa Junior College in Santa Rosa, California. Gomes was a hard-ass — in a good way, Cossins said. He was an old-school baseball coach who loved the position and had high standards for his players. His approach worked, sending more than 50 catchers off to four-year colleges — including Hyde and Cossins.

“He loved to coach, he loved being on the field,” Hyde said. “He was so unselfish. He was a really, really good teacher.”

Cossins, who still lives in the Santa Rosa area, stayed in touch with Gomes long after his playing days at the junior college were done. When Hyde and Cossins were hired by the Orioles, Gomes purchased an MLB.TV package so he could stream the games.

Gomes especially loved catcher Adley Rutschman, and they were making arrangements for them to meet the next time the team was in California. But they didn’t get the chance before Gomes died on May 26, 2022. He was 60 years old.

Gomes wasn’t just watching as a fan though — he had thoughts on how Cossins and Hyde were handling the team, and he wanted his former athletes to know.

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“Before he lost his ability to speak, he was always questioning what was going on, what we were doing, why we were doing this, why we weren’t doing this,” Cossins said. “He was intense, he was a competitor.”

In the winter of 2021, Gomes and Cossins were playing catch when Gomes noticed that his hand was bugging him. Cossins said what Gomes would have told him in that situation — to shake it off.

But this wasn’t something that Gomes could just get over with a few hand flicks. Gomes was diagnosed first with an autoimmune disease, then later with ALS. Cossins, as he always did, stayed in touch with Gomes throughout the 2021 season. That offseason, when he returned to Santa Rosa, he visited Gomes every Thursday.

It started off just like old times, the two having fun and catching up after six months apart. Then the disease started to take its toll. It felt like a punch to the gut, Cossins said, to watch as this once tough man slowly broke down. Gomes was a catcher, the sturdiest guy on the field, and here was his own body failing him.

Soon, Gomes could no longer use his limbs. Then, he lost the ability to speak.

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“He was trying so hard,” Cossins said. “He was fighting it, he was pissed off.”

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde, left, and coach Tim Cossins hold a jersey in honor of their mentor Sam Gomes. (Courtesy of Tim Cossins)

As the holidays approached, Cossins and his friends learned how to operate Gomes’ equipment so they could take him out to view Christmas lights, one of Gomes’ favorite activities. They boarded into the van, laughing as they drove around Santa Rosa and took in the festivities. Then reality started to sink in and the group began crying as they realized this would probably be Gomes’ last Christmas. With no cure and few medicines available for ALS, things were not going to get better.

A few weeks later, as Cossins prepared to leave for spring training ahead of the 2022 season, he again went to visit Gomes. With the demands of his job, Cossins didn’t know if he would be able to visit again until the offseason. They hoped that Gomes would be able to make it until then, but Cossins knew, with the way the disease was progressing, that would likely not be the case. He had to say goodbye to his coach, mentor and friend while he still could.

Gomes died a few months later.

“It was shattering, it just gutted me,” Cossins said. “It was just a moment in your life that impacts you for the rest of your life.”

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On Sunday, Cossins and Hyde plan to honor their former coach together. Cossins might also wear that Wonderboy shirt that under his uniform. They felt his presence last year during their playoff run, and they know that he was — and still is — watching them with a smile.

“I can only imagine how proud of us he is,” Cossins said. “I hope we do him proud. I want him to know that we are listening.”